The state budget – and what comes after

You need to get out on those sidewalks outside where abortions are happening. Abortions aren’t going on in the halls of Congress. Abby Johnson once said this to a room full of New Hampshire activists. Another time, in a very brief exchange with me, she was impatient when I mentioned the political work to which I’m drawn. “Politics isn’t going to end this,” she said, “this” meaning abortion and all its detritus.

And yet I stay involved in politics. I know what happens when we concede the arena to politicians unwilling to accept or defend the right to life. More than once, I’ve heard “how did we get here?” from stunned neighbors who have just realized how abortion-friendly is our state’s political culture.

One vote at a time, that’s how. Course correction will come the same way.

So what does this have to do with the state budget? First, the last budget proposal was not encouraging as far as the right to life and conscience rights are concerned. Second, I need to remember that passage of an abortion-friendly state budget will need to be met with something more than hand-wringing.

Year in and year out, the budget is dominated by health and human services spending. Yet without a systemic commitment to the right to life – not something assigned as a privilege, but recognized as a right – then all the spending is just so much vote-buying, swaying with the vagaries of political fashion.

I see much online cheering for the final implementation of the federal rule barring abortion providers from getting Title X family planning funds. At the risk of being the skunk at the garden party, I’ll remind you that the proposed state budget passed by the New Hampshire House and Senate includes a dramatic increase in family planning money from state general funds, to offset any loss of federal funds to abortion providers who are also Title X contractors.

And then there’s the line in the House/Senate budget that repeals the previous prohibition on the use of state general funds for abortion.

Yes, Governor Sununu vetoed that budget. He never cited the abortion language as a reason, although he found plenty else to complain about. Reports on recent budget negotiations include nothing about removing the abortion language.

The Governor does not have line-item veto power in New Hampshire. It’s all-or-nothing when it comes to the budget. I am sure neither the Governor nor any of his staffers will dispute me when I say that he unlikely to veto a budget over abortion funding, if negotiations resolve all his other concerns.

(Pending a resolution of the budget impasse, the state is operating on a continuing resolution that basically continues spending at the same level on the same items as the last budget, which expired on June 30. The government is not shut down.)

So here we are, in the political position New Hampshire pro-lifers know best: underfoot. This brings me back to that sharp reminder I got from Abby Johnson: politics isn’t going to end the carnage – not by itself, anyway. I’m not suggesting taxpayer funding for abortion and abortion providers is unimportant. I am saying that whatever the state budget eventually looks like, good or bad, the most important pro-life work is going to go on without regard to any negotiations at the State House.

After the state budget is signed, pregnancy care centers are still going to be going about their business. They need volunteers, board members, executive directors, medical staffers. They need diapers and wipes and car seats and office supplies. You don’t need to vote for that. You can just do it.

After the budget is signed, we’re still going to have – eventually – a loved one or a neighbor or a child’s classmate who’ll face pregnancy and won’t know where to turn. You can be a voice of hope. You don’t need to sport an “I voted” sticker to do that.

After the budget is signed, bigotry against people with disabilities will still be real and dangerous. The attitude “better dead than disabled” will need pushback over and over again. Babies diagnosed in utero with disabilities will be at risk of “termination” on those grounds alone. You can demonstrate how to affirm human dignity, particularly if you’re living with disability or an adverse diagnosis. You might want to share your story with one of your elected officials, because nothing beats a personal story to get a message across.

After the budget is signed, you might still be called to be a peaceful pro-life witness in a public place. You might be called to put your professional skill at the service of life-affirming ministries. You might be called to a routine of prayer that’s new to you.

Imagine all this going on regardless of who’s in charge at the State House or who’s rallying outside a hearing. Now open your eyes: it’s all happening.

Let’s encourage each other.

Mildred Jefferson: right to life “the cause of all those who care about fairness & justice”

“Dr. Jefferson was sitting at our table and wearing one of her trademark stylish hats. She had an air of natural dignity and depth that made me suspect that we were in the company of quiet greatness. Little did [we] know at the time that she was an American history maker and ground breaker for African Americans and women.”


That’s from the blog of Massachusetts Citizens for Life, written shortly after the death of Dr. Mildred Jefferson in 2010. Dr. Jefferson had served MCFL as president, among her many other pro-life activities. From the same blog post come these words written by Dr. Jefferson in 1977.

“We come together from all parts of our land … We come rich and poor, proud and plain, religious and agnostic, politically committed and independent. … the right-to-life cause is not the concern of only a special few but it should be the cause of all those who care about fairness and justice, love and compassion and liberty with law …”

Mildred Jefferson became active in the pro-life movement for the simplest of reasons: someone asked her. Pre-Roe v. Wade, the American Medical Association took a position deferring to increasingly-“liberalized” state laws on abortion. Dr. Jefferson was a surgeon by profession, and a fellow physician asked her to sign a petition objecting to the AMA’s move. The rest is history.

(Something to think about: have you invited anyone lately to get involved?)

Dr. Jefferson’s papers are held at the Schlesinger Library at the Radcliffe Institute of Harvard University (she was a graduate of Harvard Medical School). The mini-biography that accompanies her papers offers a glimpse into her activities. A partial list: one of the founders of Massachusetts Citizens for Life and the National Right to Life Committee, twice a candidate for U.S. Senate and once for the Eighth Congressional District, active with Americans United for Life Legal Defense Fund and Black Americans for Life, expert witness in court cases, and provider of expert testimony on legislation at every level from federal to municipal.

She assisted New Hampshire activists by coming to testify on life-issue bills. I asked New Hampshire Rep. Kathy Souza and former Rep. Phyllis Woods for some of their recollections. “She gave everything she had for the life rights of unborn babies, including her practice as a surgeon,” Souza told me. “She never complained, but always had a peaceful assurance that she was right in her pursuit of the truth and the right to life and let nothing discourage her. She always showed an inner confidence and was an inspiration. She came to speak for NHRTL at St. Casimir’s in Nashua back in the seventies.  My favorite image of her is the hat she was wearing then  — came to know it as part of her — a small hat, perched rather jauntily, but dignified.”

Woods recalls, “She took that Hippocratic Oath to the final degree. I remember when she was a speaker at the New Hampshire march for life in Concord. I was so impressed because she was going to run for Ted Kennedy’s seat. I thought ‘wow! What a gutsy woman!’ She was an awesome speaker.”

Souza adds, “She always managed to get in her favorite saying, that life should not be only for the ‘planned, the perfect, the privileged.'”

(c) Ellen Kolb/Leaven for the Loaf, 2016

 

Their trip was snowed out – so these students marched for life at home

“The truth doesn’t stop being the truth just because it’s hidden.” —Fr. Paul Soper

The Archdiocese of Boston cancelled its buses to the March for Life in Washington, D.C. , bowing to the weather forecast. More than four hundred students who had planned to be marching to the U.S. Supreme Court with fellow pro-lifers found themselves spending January 22 at home.

Instead of shrugging and saying “oh, well…”, these students along with workers for the Archdiocese brought their March for Life to Boston. Here’s the three-minute video they made, showing how they turned a cancelled trip into an enthusiastic and peaceful Boston witness for life.


 

He Said It: Ryan Bomberger of The Radiance Foundation

Bomberger quote