2021 legislation coming into focus

The New Hampshire State House remains closed to the public, but legislative business is underway with live-streamed sessions and Zoom hearings. Proposed legislation includes several life-issue and conscience-rights bills that are awaiting scheduling.

I should illustrate this post with a photo of a laptop screen instead of the State House. The screen is as close as we’ll get to the committees, until someone in COVID-19 authority declares otherwise.

A partial list

Here’s a partial list of bills, with legislation still being developed. Hearings are not yet scheduled for these measures.

Number of bill or legislative service request (LSR; that’s a bill-in-formation), title or analysis as printed in the bill, sponsors’ name/town with chief sponsor listed first:

  • LSR 146, prohibiting public funding of abortions and establishing the New Hampshire foster care and adoption initiative fund. (Rep. Fred Plett, Goffstown)
  • HB 233-FN, relative to the right of any infant born alive to medically appropriate and reasonable care and treatment. (Reps. Jordan Ulery, Hudson, and Walter Stapleton, Claremont)
  • LSR 541, relative to the protection of fetal life. (Reps. Beth Folsom, Wentworth; Jeanine Notter, Merrimack; Linda Gould, Bedford; Katherine Prudhomme-O’Brien, Derry; Maureen Mooney, Merrimack; Walter Stapleton, Claremont; Sens. Regina Birdsell, Hampstead; Ruth Ward, Stoddard)
  • HB 430, repealing the prohibition on entering or remaining on a public way or sidewalk adjacent to a reproductive health facility. This would repeal the unenforced “buffer zone” law. (Reps. Niki Kelsey, Bedford; Jeanine Notter, Merrimack; Linda Gould, Bedford; Maureen Mooney, Merrimack; Walter Stapleton, Claremont; Mark Pearson, Hampstead; Hershel Nuñez, Pelham; Matthew Simon, Littleton; Vanessa Sheehan, Milford; Tim Baxter, Seabrook; Sens. Jeb Bradley, Wolfeboro; Gary Daniels, Milford; Regina Birdsell, Hampstead; Kevin Avard, Nashua; Denise Ricciardi, Bedford)
  • HB 434, prohibiting the use of public funds for abortions. (Reps. Vanessa Sheehan, Milford; Maureen Mooney, Merrimack; Kimberly Rice, Hudson; Debra DeSimone, Atkinson; Linda Gould, Bedford; Mark Pearson, Hampstead; Matthew Simon, Littleton; Bill King, Milford; Diane Pauer, Brookline; Jim Creighton, Antrim; Sens. Denise Ricciardi, Bedford; Ruth Ward, Stoddard; Gary Daniels, Milford)
  • HCR 4, a resolution recognizing the authority of states to enact laws protecting the lives of the unborn and calling for a Constitutional Convention to propose a human life amendment to the Constitution. (Rep. Max Abramson, Seabrook)
  • LSR 791, protecting nascent human life as a reasonable and valid state interest. (Reps. Walter Stapleton, Claremont; Bill Nelson, Brookfield; Mark Pearson, Hampstead; Max Abramson, Seabrook)

A few notes

While the House and Senate have Republican majorities, I haven’t heard any chatter about giving these bills high priority within the GOP caucus. I expect COVID-19 policy, education choice, and the state budget to predominate.

Speaking at a Business and Industry Association online event earlier this week, Speaker of the House Sherman Packard said “all testimony will be virtual” – he meant online. While House committees might meet at the State House in modified hearing rooms (air filters are being installed, among other COVID accommodations), the public will participate electronically for now.

Senate committees are meeting online via the Zoom platform, which allows for public participation. As with the House, there is currently no provision for the public to be physically present with legislators during testimony.

The Senate has announced that it will allow “omnibus” bills this year. That’s one of the worst ideas held over from last year’s pandemic disruptions. Multiple bills will be bundled together in each omnibus, with a single hearing for each bundle. While that may be appropriate in an emergency, let’s hope the emergency doesn’t extend beyond this session. Making omnibus bills routine gives rise to a we-have-to-pass-it-to-find-out-what’s-in-it mentality.

There are more than 800 bills in the works, covering a myriad of topics including human trafficking, religious liberty, and allocation of state resources. Most will be dealt with by the end of May, with June to be dedicated to finalizing the state budget for the next fiscal biennium which begins on July 1.

The attack ad told me to check the facts – so I did

(I wrote this essay for Cornerstone, which has kindly given me permission to re-post here.)

I am an “undeclared” voter, in the parlance of my state’s election laws, which means I’m not registered with any political party. I get a hefty pile of political ads in the mail every day during election season, as both major parties try to win my vote. Check the facts, they urge me.

I recently got a mailer from the state Democrat party attacking a state senate candidate, Gary Daniels, who happens to be a friend of mine. The mailer informed me that Daniels was coming to take away my reproductive rights.

No wonder “check the facts” is in the tiniest print.

I know the candidate and his voting record, so I was skeptical of the mailer right off the bat. But right there in tiny print on the front was that challenge: check the facts.

Fact number one: the first claim printed on the mailer cited a “vote” that Daniels never cast. He was not a member of the legislature at the time the bill in question was introduced.

“Opposes reproductive health care”

The footnote to the claim that Daniels “opposes reproductive health care” points to HB 685 (2020). Gary Daniels, while he is a former senator, was not in office in 2020. The incumbent in that seat is Shannon Chandley, whose party is responsible for the false claim that Daniels voted on HB 685.

Chandley voted in favor of the bill. That is not to her credit.

HB 685 was an abortion insurance mandate. It was not about reproductive health care. It was about violating the conscience rights of people who would rather not be involved in abortion, even tangentially, by providing insurance for it. It was about equating abortion with maternity care. As the Governor pointed out in his veto message, it was also about violating the federal Weldon Amendment, which would have cost the state millions of dollars in federal funds for human services programs in New Hampshire.

(The Weldon Amendment prohibits federal funds from going to states that discriminate against any health care entity which does not pay for or provide coverage for abortions.)

A vote for HB 685 doesn’t look to me like support for health care. Instead, it looks like contempt for conscience rights.

“Opposes doctor-patient confidentiality”

The mailer goes on to proclaim that Daniels “opposes doctor-patient confidentiality.” Another footnote, this one for HB 629 (2016).

HB 629 was an abortion statistics bill. Not only was it written to protect patient confidentiality, but it contained language to protect provider identity as well. That was how the bill made it through the House on a voice vote, before it was tabled in the Senate after an effort to pass it failed on a 12-12 vote.

I participated as a representative of a policy group, Cornerstone Action, in every hearing and work session between the time the bill was introduced in January 2015 until it died on the table in the state senate in May 2016. I know how great a role confidentiality played in the lengthy negotiations.

To say that support for abortion statistics is “opposition to doctor-patient confidentiality” is a lie. Period.

“Opposes access to contraception”

The footnote to the third claim on the anti-Daniels mailer (“opposes access to contraception”) takes us all the way back to a 2015 bill, SB 42, “relative to employee notification of contraceptive coverage” in employer-provided health insurance. This was an attempt to hang a scarlet letter on companies that were exempt from the Obamacare contraceptive mandate following the Supreme Court’s Hobby Lobby decision.

This bill was so poorly received in the state senate that it was tabled and killed on a voice vote. It never even made it over to the House.

The only roll call vote on the bill was on a proposed amendment that was rejected on a 12-12 tie. Daniels voted against the proposed amendment because he understood the underlying bill.

That’s it. There’s no truth that the vote on SB 42 was about “access to contraception.” No one’s access to contraception was at issue. This bill was all about annoyance with the Supreme Court and with anyone who objected to the contraceptive mandate.

Now, more than ever…

In bold print, the mailer from the state Democrat party tells me that “now, more than ever, we need to come together to protect state level reproductive health.”

Let me fix that for them.

Now, more than ever, we need to come together to respect each other’s rights of conscience.

Now, more than ever, we need to come together to put women’s health ahead of politics, and start reporting abortion statistics including maternal morbidity and mortality. Forty-seven other states have figured out how to do that with aggregate data that protects patient confidentiality.

Now, more than ever, we need to reclaim the authentic meaning of rights and health.

And while we’re at it: now, more than ever, we need to call out a party when it fabricates a vote in an effort to smear a candidate. Just because there are footnotes doesn’t mean the information is accurate or reliable.

I suspect Gary Daniels is not the only candidate whose pro-life record is going to be misrepresented. Do your local candidates a favor: if you hear an accusation about “opposing contraception” or “opposing doctor-patient confidentiality,” call for documentation. If what you get in reply are references to HB 685, HB 629, and SB 42, now you know what they really mean.

The party that created that mailer will have to find another way to attract my vote.

Header photo: Image by OpenClipart-Vectors from Pixabay 

Edited for clarity.

AUL Distributes “Defending Life” at CPAC

Prime swag from the exhibit hall at the Conservative Political Action Conference (@CPAC2019) outside Washington, D.C.: “Defending Life 2019.” This annual report from Americans United for Life gives a state-by-state analysis of life-issue laws. It includes calls to action for each state, listing the kinds of laws that would strengthen public policy relative to the right to life.

If you’re at CPAC, grab it. Its availability here is good news. This is a “conservative” conference rather than a “pro-life” conference, and the two are not synonymous even if there’s overlap. At the conference, it’ll get into the hands of people who might not have given much thought before to life-issue laws – at least not until the recent Born-Alive bill news from Washington. This is a teachable moment.

If you’re not at CPAC, look for “Defending Life” at aul.org.

One erratum, which I have brought to the attention of AUL: New Hampshire’s governor, happily, did not veto fetal homicide legislation. Quite the contrary, in fact. I was there to cheer when he signed it.

Governor Sununu, a Year After Controversial Ad

It’s been a year now since Chris Sununu professed his pro-choice (sic) bona fides by stating in a gubernatorial campaign ad that he “took on [his] own party” on women’s health, meaning he voted to hand New Hampshire state contracts to abortion providers. A strange ad, that one. (I dissected it in “Observing a Republican ‘Take On’ His Party.“)

A few days later, after private conversations with the candidate, veteran pro-life activist and former GOP gubernatorial candidate Ovide Lamontagne released a letter from Sununu listing pro-life measures Sununu would support. Sununu went on to win the election. with a plurality instead of a majority.

One Down, Four to Go

Gov. Chris Sununu signs “Sarah and Griffin’s Law,” 2017.

Now that Governor Sununu has been in office for the better part of a year, how much progress has been made on  those pro-life measures in 2017?

Fetal Homicide: Sununu signed “Sarah and Griffin’s Law” in June.

Women’s Health Protection Act (abortion facility regulations)no such bill was introduced this year.

Healthcare Freedom of Conscience: no bill this year, but one is in the works for 2018. Ten co-sponsors have signed on so far.

Late Term Abortion Ban: The New Hampshire House tabled Rep. Keith Murphy’s bill to limit post-viability abortions. Expect another bill along these lines in 2018.

Buffer Zone Repeal: The House rejected a repeal bill for the third time.

What About Statistics?

Governor Sununu’s pre-election letter did not mention abortion statistics, but there’s a stats bill in the works that may yet come to his desk. The House will vote in January on a committee recommendation of Ought to Pass with Amendment on HB 471.

I wonder if a little quiet support from the corner office could make a difference as the bill moves through House and then Senate.

Remember Safe Haven

My New Hampshire neighbor Darlene Pawlik put up a Facebook post recently that reminded me about New Hampshire’s Safe Haven law, passed in 2003. Texas passed the first such law in 1999 to protect abandoned infants, and now every state has a similar measure. Under New Hampshire’s Safe Haven law, newborn children up to 7 days old may be relinquished to staff at fire stations, hospitals, police stations or churches by parents who for whatever reason choose not to keep the baby. The idea is to make sure that an “unwanted” child is cared for instead of abandoned. At the same time, the law was crafted to protect the privacy of the parents distressed and overwhelmed by the birth – a teenager who has kept her pregnancy concealed from her family, for example.

Let the record show that the chief sponsor of New Hampshire’s Safe Haven law was Phyllis Woods of Dover. Of her nine co-sponsors, one is still in office: Rep. Andy Martel of Manchester, now running for re-election.

Safe Haven passed overwhelmingly in the New Hampshire House eleven years ago, 327-45. The usual pro-life/pro-abortion divide was obscured for one blessed day. Supporters ranged from Ray Buckley (then a rep, now chairman of the New Hampshire Democratic Party) and Chris Pappas (now a Democratic Executive Councilor) to Sharon Carson and Sam Cataldo (now pro-life state Senators). The bill later passed on a voice vote in the Senate after an unfriendly amendment was voted down along party lines.

Post by Safe Haven Law.