“I grow weary of those who ask us to slow down”

Adapted from a 2015 post on this blog.

Peaceful pro-life witness is not Activism Lite.

Recall what peaceful witness called for in 1963, in the face of angry and sometimes violent resistance that had deep political and social roots. Recall Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s words from those days: I grow weary of those who ask us to slow down.

In 1963, a few months before Dr. King’s “I Have a Dream” speech at the March on Washington, he and many other civil rights activists converged on Birmingham, Alabama to challenge racial segregation. Their campaign was marked by intensive planning and discipline, because the Southern Christian Leadership Conference was intent not only on its message but on delivering it the right way. Volunteers for the Birmingham campaign were screened and trained, as King recounted in Why We Can’t Wait. He noted, “Every volunteer was required to sign a Commitment Card.”

Comprehensive commitment

To what did the Birmingham activists commit?

I hereby pledge myself – my person and body – to the nonviolent movement. Therefore I will keep the following ten commandments:

  1. Meditate daily on the teachings and life of Jesus.
  2. Remember always that the nonviolent movement in Birmingham seeks justice and reconciliation – not victory.
  3. Walk and talk in the manner of love, for God is love.
  4. Pray daily to be used by God in order that all men might be free.
  5. Sacrifice personal wishes in order that all men might be free.
  6. Observe with both friend and foe the ordinary rules of courtesy.
  7. Seek to perform regular service for others and for the world.
  8. Refrain from the violence of fist, tongue, or heart.
  9. Strive to be in good spiritual and bodily health.
  10. Follow the directions of the movement and of the captain of the demonstration.

King added, “We made it clear that we would not send anyone out to demonstrate who had not convinced himself and us that he could accept and endure violence without retaliating” during the campaign. That took guts. It meant putting aside the natural right of self-defense during the demonstration, even as they faced people who had no qualms about using violence, including bombs.

I want to take the Birmingham commitment to heart.

Witnessing with accountability

Anyone can sign a piece of paper (or in this age, click on “I agree”) signifying a commitment. So why bother? Because nonviolence during a public demonstration isn’t something to take for granted. Public affirmation reinforces personal commitment. Public affirmation is part of accountability to the larger community. It draws a clear line between those peaceful demonstrators and any people willing to resort to violence to impede them.

I have neighbors who take umbrage at the assertion that today’s pro-life movement is part of the civil rights movement that came to flower at that March on Washington in ’63. In reply, I can only avow that life is the fundamental civil and human right. Abortion takes lives, and there are businesses that profit from it. Let peaceful public witness to that continue.

I haven’t endured the physical abuse to which the Birmingham demonstrators were subjected. Their example is awesome even today. They faced police dogs and fire hoses, and still made a commitment to nonviolent public witness and action. The best way for me to honor their memory is to emulate them, even though I’ve faced nothing worse so far than name-calling.

The immoderate “moderates”

Recall that the nonviolent demonstrators in Birmingham were far from passive. There was urgency in their goal of justice and reconciliation. From a 1963 UPI report on the Birmingham demonstrations: “King reacted strongly, however, to a statement by Attorney General Robert Kennedy suggesting that the all-out integration drive here was ill-timed. ‘I grow weary of those who ask us to slow down,’ King told a reporter. ‘I begin to feel that the moderates in America are our worst enemy.’”

King used the word “moderate” ironically. He knew that civil rights, but not yet was a phony kind of moderation. In the same manner, denying the right to life is hardly a moderate position, even when cloaked in euphemisms like “reproductive justice.”

The events and words of 1963 aren’t frozen in place, devoid of application to our own times. View them not as an archaeologist views a dig, but as a traveler views a map: take this path, not that one. I could do worse than follow the people who signed those cards in Birmingham.

Pro-life winners in New Hampshire Senate recounts

Three New Hampshire senators who voted to table a 2020 born-alive infant protection bill were voted out of office on November 3rd. Three recounts this week confirmed that pro-life senators will take their places.

In district 11, Gary Daniels (R-Milford) will return to the Senate after losing the seat two years ago to Shannon Chandley (D-Amherst). After an intense campaign, the margin of victory was 159 votes out of more than 34,000 cast. A mailer from the New Hampshire Democratic Party attacking Daniels for voting pro-life apparently didn’t boost Chandley as intended. (See The Attack Ad Told Me to Check the Facts – So I Did.) Daniels previously served two terms in the Senate after 9 terms in the House.

Kevin Avard (R-Nashua) unseated Melanie Levesque (D-Brookline) in District 12. Avard had served two terms before being ousted by Levesque in 2018. This time, Avard prevailed by 805 votes. The “singing Senator” will soon be back on the job.

District 9’s Jeanne Dietsch (D-Peterborough), a one-term senator, was beaten by Denise Ricciardi (R-Bedford), a newcomer to state-level politics. Hours into a recount on November 10, Dietsch withdrew her challenge when a hand count of ballots from the largest towns in the district failed to put a dent in Ricciardi’s 409-vote lead.

Regina Birdsell (R-Hampstead) of district 19, sponsor of the 2020 born-alive bill, was re-elected easily.

Republicans will have a 14-10 majority in the upcoming Senate term.

Sununu victory, GOP legislature: what’s ahead?

New Hampshire Governor Chris Sununu, a Republican, has won a third term. The same election flipped the House and Senate from Democrat to Republican majorities, subject to a few Senate recounts.

Will this yield any pro-life legislation?

You may recall that when Sununu ran for Governor the first time, he ran an ad touting his “pro-choice” position, but later said that he supported certain common-sense measures: fetal homicide legislation, Women’s Health Protection Act (standards for operation of abortion facilities), healthcare freedom of conscience, a late-term abortion ban, and buffer zone repeal.

(From 2016: A concerned Republican and Sununu’s reply)

After two terms, he has signed a fetal homicide law. None of the other measures he mentioned has even made it to his desk. It’s possible that a Republican majority in House and Senate will make a difference. After all, the Republican majority during Sununu’s first term did manage to pass that fetal homicide law, with the help of four Democrats and one Libertarian.

“Pro-life” isn’t spelled G-O-P. Neither is “First Amendment,” for that matter, as I recall repeated failures to repeal the buffer zone law. Even so, maybe some of those common-sense measures mentioned by the Governor might have a chance in 2021.

Post-veto, a clarifying moment on Twitter

Yes, Governor Chris Sununu vetoed the odious abortion insurance mandate. I’ve thanked him. I hope readers will do likewise.

Nothing in the veto changes his attitude toward abortion. The veto indicated respect for those who disagree with him, just as it indicated concern that the mandate would have cost the state money. That’s as far as it goes.

Three people came together in a Twitter exchange a few hours after the veto to clear this up for pro-life voters.

First, this from Sen. Dan Feltes (D-Concord), who hopes to get the Democratic nomination for Governor this fall. He pitched his customary reproductive-rights spiel.

Mere minutes later came this reply from a gentleman working for the Governor’s re-election, formerly on the Governor’s staff. He helpfully pointed out that Planned Parenthood has not suffered under the Governor’s leadership, despite the fact that he has disappointed them twice in five years (more about that here, under “an interesting anniversary”).

A state representative summed it up well in her reply to Mr. Vihstadt. She does not trash the Governor, nor has she ever done so in my hearing. She is a thoughtful individual. But she does have a habit of calling things as she sees ’em.

Ouch. But yes.

Gratitude for the veto is a good thing. It’s downright essential, in my book. Acknowledgment of the conscience rights of Granite Staters is always refreshing to see.

Maybe that’ll extend to keeping tax dollars away from abortion providers someday.

Perhaps that’s a conversation to be had on the campaign trail.

Where Your Reps Stand: N.H. General Court Votes, 2019-2020

While the COVID-19 pandemic has interrupted The New Hampshire House and Senate (collectively, the General Court), most of 2020’s life-issue bills were dealt with before the mid-March suspension. Granite Staters can see how their representatives have voted and can follow up accordingly.

  • Look up the names of your state representatives and state senator. Note that you might be covered by two House districts.
  • Look up the votes for the bills listed below.
  • Remember in November. Acting sooner might be a good idea, too: the period to file declarations of candidacy for state offices is June 3-12. Want to run, or know someone who should? That’s when to make a House or Senate candidacy official.

Still pending is SB 486, a bill to require that certain health insurance policies cover abortion. The Senate passed the bill along party lines. The House will schedule a hearing sometime after it reconvenes on June 11. Governor Sununu’s position on the bill is unknown.

Notes on the votes

The bills listed below are the ones for which a clear roll call is available. If a bill you’ve been following isn’t on the list, the chances are that it was disposed of with a voice vote or a division vote. (A division vote reflects a numerical result without any indication of how a specific representative voted.)

For each bill I’m highlighting below, I’ve provided links to the most relevant roll call vote. As to who determines what a “preferred” vote looks like, that’s me exercising editorial discretion. Readers may reach different conclusions. I trust that there’s enough information here for anyone curious about these particular bills.

If you want a broader view of how your representative has voted, the General Court website is your source. Go to Who’s My Legislator? and click on your town. You’ll get a list of all the reps from your district. Click on any name and you’ll be directed to that rep’s information page. From there, click on the “Voting Record” box. That will lead you to your rep’s votes on every roll call from the current session. There are over a hundred roll calls so far.

Always keep in mind that “yes” is not always a vote in favor of the bill; it is actually a vote in favor of a particular motion. Motions may be Ought to Pass (OTP), Ought to Pass with Amendment (OTP/A), Inexpedient to Legislate (ITL), or Table (which prevents an up-or-down vote on the bill).

When a legislator is marked “excused,” that means the legislator notified the House Clerk in advance of the day’s session that she or he would be absent. “Not voting” is an unexcused absence, which could mean having to leave the session early, deliberately skipping a vote, or being elsewhere in the building when the Sergeant-at-Arms bellowed out “roll call!”

Senate

SB 741, born-alive infant protection

Upon a motion made and seconded by abortion advocates, the Senate tabled SB 741 on a 14-10 vote. The bill would have provided enforceable protection for infants surviving attempted abortion. Preferred vote: NAY on the tabling motion. (Vote #30, 2/13/2020)

Can a tabled bill be brought back for further action? As a technical matter, the answer is yes, if a sufficient number of senators vote to do so. As a practical matter, SB 741 is going to die on the table.

Related: Big Talk, Then a Whimper (2/13/2020)

HB 455, death penalty repeal

Overriding Governor Chris Sununu’s veto by the slimmest of margins, the House and Senate nudged HB 455 into law. As of May 30, 2019, New Hampshire courts will no longer sentence anyone to death. The Senate vote was 16-8 on the veto override, just making the necessary two-thirds needed. Preferred vote: YES on the override. (Vote #163, 5/30/19)

To call this one emotional is an understatement. Opposition to the death penalty is something on which I get lively pushback in conversation with some policymakers who are otherwise consistently pro-life.

Related: A Note on Death Penalty Repeal (5/22/19)

House

HB 124, buffer zone repeal

The House voted “inexpedient to legislate” on HB 124, an attempt to repeal the buffer zone law. The ITL motion passed 228-141. Preferred vote: NAY on ITL. (Vote #15, 1/31/2019)

The failure of the repeal attempt was a hollow victory for opponents of the First Amendment rights of peaceful pro-life witnesses. The buffer zone law itself remains on the books but is unenforced, with a court challenge certain to follow any attempt to put it into effect.

Links to this blog’s coverage of the buffer zone law since 2013 are here.

HB 158, abortion statistics

The House voted “inexpedient to legislate” on HB 158, regarding the collection and reporting of statistics on induced termination of pregnancy in the state. The ITL motion passed 218-144. Preferred vote: NAY on ITL. (Vote #79, 3/7/2019)

Related: New Stats Dispute Comes Up in Committee (5/9/2019)

HB 291, end-of-life study

Sponsors of HB 291 were candid in their public testimony: their idea of end-of-life “care” included assisted suicide. The House voted “ought to pass,” 214-140. Preferred vote: NAY on OTP. (Vote #88, 3/14/2019)

The Senate later amended the bill, but the House refused to concur with the Senate’s changes. The bill therefore died (fittingly).

HB 455, death penalty repeal

See my comments above on the Senate’s HB 455 vote. The override margin in the House was nearly as slim: 247-123. Preferred vote: YEA on override. (Vote #201, 5/23/19)

HB 1675, born-alive infant protection

The formal description of HB 1675 was “relative to the right of any infant born alive to medically appropriate and reasonable care and treatment.” That was too much for a majority of New Hampshire’s current House members, who voted “inexpedient to legislate,” 177-131. Preferred vote: NAY on ITL. (Vote #101, 3/12/2020)

Related: Video from House Committee Saying “No” to Born-Alive Bill (3/8/2020); House Votes Down Born-Alive Protection (3/12/2020)

HB 1678, prenatal nondiscrimination act

HB 1678 would have barred abortions performed for reasons of Down syndrome, other genetic anomaly, or sex selection. Penalties for violation would have applied to the abortion provider, not the mother of the child. In one of the last votes cast by the House before the COVID-19 suspension, House members voted “inexpedient to legislate,” 193-101. Preferred vote: NAY on ITL. (Vote #142, 3/12/2020)