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)

Senate version of born-alive bill hearing February 4

The New Hampshire Senate Health and Human Services Committee will have a public hearing on SB 741-FN, a born-alive infant protection bill, on Tuesday, February 4 at 3:20 p.m. in room 100 of the State House. This is the Senate version of HB 1675-FN, which was heard in the House Judiciary Committee on January 29.

Chief sponsor of SB 741-FN is Sen. Regina Birdsell (R-Hampstead). She is joined by eight Senate co-sponsors and four House co-sponsors.

Unlike most House committees, a Senate committee may vote on a bill immediately after the hearing. For contact information for the senators who will hear SB 741-FN, see the “email entire committee” link on the Senate HHS committee’s information page.

The two bills are not in competition with each other. If the House turns down its version, the Senate might still approve its own – and yes, that’s optimistic, but it’s a way to ensure that the public has at least two chances to call for statutory protection for children who survive attempted abortion. Opposition to infanticide shouldn’t be a tough call.

Thereby hangs a cautionary tale.

White coats at the House hearing

(Corrected 2/3/2020 to show correct surname of ACOG representative.)

What can senators expect to hear on February 4? Consider what happened at the House committee hearing on HB 1675. (I’ll drop the “FN” for the remainder of this post; it means “fiscal note” and has no bearing on the bill’s underlying subject matter.)

The Union Leader’s Kevin Landrigan wrote about “four” abortion bills that had hearings on January 29 – although one of those bills, HB 1675, was about children already born and thus was not an abortion bill. Mr. Landrigan’s story included a photo he took at a press conference held by abortion advocates that day.

abortion press conference
photo by Kevin Landrigan/Union Leader

Tucked in between pink-clad PP supporters and red-clad “handmaidens” were several women in white coats. I learned at the born-alive hearing that they were medical doctors and medical students with coats embroidered with Dartmouth Hitchcock emblems.

The white-coated women drew no distinction among the four bills reported upon by Mr. Landrigan. I was at the born-alive hearing, and I saw they were there to oppose that bill – a bill that would impose upon them a specific duty to care for newborn children who have survived attempted abortion, with penalties for failure to do so.

One of the women in white was identified in the Union Leader story as Dr. Ellen Joyce, chair of the state chapter of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. According my notes from the hearing, she called the born-alive bill “dangerous” and “ill-advised,” said it “seeks to solve a problem that does not exist,” and added that the legislation’s “false claims” tended to undermine the public’s trust in OB/GYNs.

I bit my tongue and forbore telling her that for me, that particular horse left the barn awhile ago. Trust, indeed.

No abortion survivors were present to challenge the “false claims” narrative. Their advocates showed up, though.

“I’m here today for Gianna Jessen.”

The bill’s chief sponsor, Rep. Katherine Prudhomme-O’Brien (R-Derry), drew the committee’s attention to the text of her bill, calling only for “medically appropriate and reasonable care and treatment” for infants who survive abortion. She cited Melissa Ohden and Gianna Jessen as two survivors. Are there survivors in New Hampshire? “We can’t know that there are not,” she said. New Hampshire doesn’t provide the Centers for Disease Control with any abortion data, including post-abortion complications, and surely a surviving child would be a statistical complication. The sponsor asked that since we don’t know if there are abortion survivors here, why not err on the side of life?

Ohden and Jessen have made it into this blog before. For many years, they have been very open about how they were not-quite aborted. They know that some children are born alive after attempted abortion, because that’s how they were born. Ohden founded the Abortion Survivors’ Network, and now more than 260 people have shared with her their own stories of abortion survival.

Rep. Jeanine Notter (R-Merrimack) picked up that theme: “I’m here today for Gianna Jessen.” She got the same question as did Rep. Prudhomme-O’Brien: does it happen here? She reminded the committee of what the sponsor had said: we can’t know, under New Hampshire’s current no-stats-to-the-CDC policy. She noted the plethora of animal rights bills being considered by the House this session, and suggested that human babies deserve as much consideration.

Plenty of people testified in favor of the bill, even as various committee members played their favorite card repeatedly: what makes you think this happens in New Hampshire? Toward the end of the hearing, after the ACOG representative had testified, I heard a supporter of the bill cut short by a committee member, who shifted from question to statement: we’ve had medical testimony that this doesn’t happen.

From now on, whenever I hear an abortion advocate saying “trust women,” I’m going to remember the women in white from the hearing on HB 1675. I’ll also remember Melissa Ohden and Gianna Jessen. The survivors simply have more credibility with me.

Perhaps only meeting survivors in person will ever win over white-coated women who take time away from work and school to argue against a bill to protect newborns who are born despite efforts to abort them. Maybe only a survivor can win over a skeptical legislator.

Until then, I’m glad to know there are legislators willing to be advocates for survivors who can’t be at the State House to plead their own cause.

Born-alive legislation is irrelevant to Roe v. Wade. It addresses a situation that occurs after a woman exercises choice. It does not affect an abortion provider’s rightful duty to care for the woman undergoing an abortion. It’s about infanticide. And still, here in New Hampshire, the prospect of a born-alive law scares some people senseless.

It’s as though some of the people in the hearing room were afraid that care is a zero-sum thing, and that any care given to an abortion-survivor newborn must necessarily mean less care, even contempt, for the woman whose pregnancy has just been terminated.

Anyone ready for a paradigm shift?

Hearings, then votes

The House Judiciary Committee has not yet voted on HB 1675. The Senate Health and Human Services Committee is free to vote on SB 741 immediately after its hearing on February 4, although a delay is possible. Dates for votes in the full House and Senate will be determined after the committees make their recommendations.

Call to action: hearing on two pro-life bills January 29

Last week, Representatives Hall in the New Hampshire State House was filled with pro-life testimony against an anti-life constitutional amendment. Just one week later, the same kind of showing is called for, this time for pro-life legislation.

On Wednesday, January 29, the House Judiciary Committee – same committee as last week – will hold public hearings on a bill to protect infants who are born alive after attempted abortion (HB 1675-FN) and a prenatal nondiscrimination act to prohibit abortion on the grounds of sex selection or genetic anomaly (HB 1678-FN). Time: 1 p.m. and 2 p.m. respectively.

It’s time for another pro-life crowd in Representatives Hall. I suspect these bills will draw the abortion advocates who stayed away from last week’s hearing, although perhaps not all of them will object to the born-alive bill. In any case, showing up matters.

HB 1678, the prenatal nondiscrimination act, is a head-on attack on the attitude that it’s better to be dead than disabled or “unwanted.” If you or someone you love is living with a genetic anomaly including Down syndrome, sharing your story might help open a legislator’s mind and heart.

As for the born-alive bill, remember that the neck-snipping done by Kermit Gosnell in Pennsylvania could be done in New Hampshire with impunity. A New Hampshire born-alive act from about twenty years ago contained no penalties for abortion providers who fail to care for born-alive children.

There are two other life-issue bills on the Judiciary calendar for that morning, which I will not be attending or working on in view of the afternoon’s hearings. Those are a heartbeat bill (HB 1475-FN) and a bill to amend the parental notification statute regarding abortions for minors (HB 1640-FN, to remove the judicial bypass portion of the law).

Let’s see if we can get the legislators to support caring for born children via born-alive legislation. Let’s get them to turn thumbs-down to sex selection abortions. Let them publicly reject better-dead-than-disabled.

That’ll be a good day’s work.

The committee’s schedule for 1/29/2020.

Related: Guide to testifying in Concord

Follow-up in Dover

Yesterday’s post shared the news about a classic grassroots pro-life organizing effort in response to a pro-abortion exhibition at a Dover, NH arts venue. It seems that last night’s peaceful witness attracted even more participants than the first one a few days ago.

From a public post on Facebook from Phyllis Woods, who led the effort: “The experience of seeing nearly seventy prolife defenders come out on a Friday night to stand in witness to the truth that giving birth to a child is normal and abortion is anything but normal, was moving and heartwarming for me and I am both humbled and proud to be counted among them.”

Phyllis has been inspiring me for a long time. Looks like she’s not done yet.

Normalize Life: Peaceful Witness in Dover

Friday, October 18 at 5:30 p.m. – just a few hours from when this post is published – peaceful pro-life witness will be going on outside the Dover Art Center, 1 Washington Street, Dover NH. Read on for what it’s about and how you can participate.

Phyllis Woods of Dover, NH saw that the Art Center in Dover was planning an exhibition intended to – ready for this? – “normalize” abortion. She didn’t wring her hands or try to close the place down. Instead, she sent out the word to pro-life allies: will you come pray with me?

They came. The day the exhibit opened, the pro-life witnesses were on the public sidewalk outside the Art Center. They didn’t try to block anything. They were there to “normalize” life. They’ll be there again today, Friday, October 18, for the exhibit’s official reception. All who are committed to peaceful, non-confrontational pro-life witness are welcome.

By the way, Phyllis has caught some flak on her social media. Feel free to chime in with something edifying.

(Photos in this post are by Phyllis Woods and are used with permission.)