Looking to 2020: State Legislation

More than a thousand bills have piled up, awaiting hearings in the 2020 session of the New Hampshire General Court – or legislature, to use a less exalted term. Another bill to be voted on is a holdover from this year, which deserves your notice.

Anti-Trafficking Bill To Be Voted On In January

The retained bill is HB 201, which will get a House vote in early January. It seeks to increase the allowable penalty for adults buying sex from minors. It should not have been held over – “retained” is the technical term. Passage last spring would have been the right outcome. Survivors of juvenile sex trafficking supported the bill with compelling testimony. One of them will be a familiar name to longtime readers: Darlene Pawlik, who was an absolute showstopper who called out nonsense when she heard it.

I’ll make a long, infuriating story short, with a note that an organization called Decriminalize Sex Work has hired New Hampshire lobbyists to advance its agenda: HB 201 was retained by the House Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee. After consideration this past fall, the committee voted to recommend Ought to Pass on the bill. The full House is likely to vote on that recommendation on January 8 or 9. Good excuse for contacting your state reps, in my humble opinion: YES on the OTP motion for retained bill HB 201.

Thumbs up to chief sponsor Rep. Linda Massimilla (D-Littleton) and her co-sponsors, and to Rep. Nancy Murphy (D-Merrimack) who wrote the committee OTP recommendation for her colleagues.

No Hearings Yet

For all the bills described below, there are no hearings scheduled yet. Watch this blog and its related Facebook page for updates as the House and Senate calendars are published. As it happens, all these bills will start in the House Judiciary Committee, even if their subject matter might seem to fit better elsewhere. Such decisions are made by finer minds than mine.

Enshrining Abortion Into N.H. Constitution

Watch out for CACR 14. This is a proposed constitutional amendment, which in order to pass will have to get a three-fifths vote in the House, three-fifths in the Senate, and then two-thirds from voters in next November’s general election. The governor has no substantive say in the process. Here we go:

“The right to make personal reproductive medical decisions is inviolate and fundamental to the human condition. Neither the State nor any political subdivision shall infringe upon or unduly inconvenience this right.”

It doesn’t say “abortion.” It doesn’t have to, in order to place abortion squarely into the New Hampshire constitution as a protected right – a right “inviolate and fundamental.”

You’ll forgive me if I shout at you about this one. Silence implies consent to the amendment’s corollary: that there is no inherent “right” to life, only a privilege to be conferred by others. Now that’s discrimination.

Sponsors: Reps. Timothy Smith (D-Manchester), Timothy Horrigan (D-Durham), Catherine Sofikitis (D-Nashua), Sherry Frost (D-Dover), Heidi Hamer (D-Manchester), Chuck Grassie (D-Rochester), Arthur Ellison (D-Concord).

Born-Alive Infants Protection

HB 1675 (chief sponsor Katherine Prudhomme-O’Brien, R-Derry) seeks to assure medically appropriate care and treatment for any infant born alive following an attempted abortion.

The bill would be a step toward making New Hampshire a bit less Gosnell-friendly. I look forward to reporting on who supports it and who opposes it at the hearing.

Assisted Suicide

After two years of trying to “study” assisted suicide via end-of-life related bills, advocates of assisted suicide have come out with a straightforward bill. HB 1659-FN has nine co-sponsors, led by Rep. Catt Sandler (D-Somersworth). The analysis in the heading of the bill says it “allows a mentally competent person who is 18 years of age or older and who has been diagnosed as having a terminal disease by the patient’s attending physician and a consulting physician to request a prescription for medication which will enable the patient to control the time, place, and manner of such patient’s death.”

You might wonder “what’s with the FN in the bill number?” FN means “fiscal note,” and it’s attached to any bill that is expected to cost money. Such bills go to the Finance Committee for a closer look (and a second full-chamber vote) if they pass the full House or Senate after the first committee is done with it.

While we’re on the subject: the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition, whose USA affiliate is headed by former New Hampshire legislator Nancy Elliott, is a good source of information. I’ll cite others as HB 1659 makes its way through the legislative process.

Prenatal Non-Discrimination

The co-sponsors of HB 1678-FN think that Down syndrome, genetic abnormalities, and being an undesired sex shouldn’t call for a death sentence. The bill would prohibit abortions performed solely for one or more of those reasons. Chief sponsor is Rep. Abigail Rooney (R-Milton).

The bill calls for a limited penalty for violations by the abortion provider: liability for damages, and revocation or suspension of medical license if the provider has one. This is not a let’s-jail-abortionists bill. It’ll be interesting to see if anyone tries to say otherwise. Further, no penalty would attach to the mother of the child, and her anonymity in any ensuing civil action would be protected.

Heartbeat Bill

Into this Gosnell-friendly state comes HB 1475-FN, sponsored by Rep. Dave Testerman (R-Franklin) and Rep. Walt Stapleton (R-Claremont). It would prohibit abortions after detection of a fetal heartbeat.

Parental Notification

HB 1640-FN (chief sponsor Rep. Werner Horn, R-Franklin) would repeal the judicial-bypass provision of the New Hampshire law requiring parental notification for minors seeking abortion.

If this bill should pass and be signed by Governor Sununu, it would pose a challenge to U.S. Supreme Court rulings on parental-involvement-in-abortion laws dating back to 1976. See the testimony of Americans United for Life on a Florida parental involvement law from March 2019.

So – ready to roll? I’ve already picked out my favorite parking space near the Legislative Office Building. It’s going to get a workout in 2020.

A 2019 Celebration: St. Gianna’s Place

Paid employment and blogging-for-the-love-of-it don’t always mix, as attested by the long stretches between posts this year on Leaven. I’ll start my 2019 review with a resolution for 2020: up my game. I’m as grateful for my readers as I am for clients.

In the last few days of the year, I’ll have an update on some New Hampshire life-issue bills filed for 2020. We’ll take a look at state-level races to be decided in next November’s election. I’ll throw in a few save-the-dates for 40 Days for Life activities and similar events. You’ll see links to some useful websites and apps. All this will be posted by midnight on New Year’s Eve, if all goes well.

For now, let the roundup begin with a cheer for the opening of St. Gianna’s Place.

“A safe harbor for mother and child,” says the organization’s tagline. It’s that, and more: a reminder to me that practical tenacity and seemingly-impractical faith are both essential when human beings are trying to care for each other.

The founders of St. Gianna’s knew they wanted to create a shelter for otherwise-homeless pregnant and parenting women in south-central New Hampshire. They created a board. They raised funds. They had a plan. One thing kept eluding them: an actual facility. The same real estate market that challenges aspiring homeowners in this area challenged the St. Gianna’s team.

2019 saw a breakthrough, with a church in Hudson making an unoccupied building available. To make a long story short – and in the process, to gloss over the efforts of many volunteers – St. Gianna’s Place is now up and running.

I take heart and encouragement from every person who helped make that happen. You can, too.

Read more about St. Gianna’s Place on its website. Maybe you can attend their next banquet; read about the first one here. There will be an ongoing need for donations and volunteers in support of the women and children served at St. Gianna’s Place.

Meeting a human-services need means coming up with more than just good intentions. The team behind St. Gianna’s Place has been up to the challenge.

State House 2020 Preview

New Hampshire legislators have filed legislative service requests for 2020, indicating the kinds of bills we’re likely to see when House and Senate convene in January. To date, 795 LSRs are on record, and more may be on the way.

Among the proposals:

  • Born-alive legislation, to ensure that children who survive attempted abortion are given appropriate medical support.
  • “Prohibiting abortion in certain cases”: LSRs can be very vague, sometimes intentionally so, with clarity and precise language coming only when the bill based on the LSR is finally released. The sponsors on this one look encouraging in any case.
  • A heartbeat bill. Iowa passed a heartbeat bill in 2018 that was struck down as unconstitutional earlier this year. Whether NH’s proposal is identical remains to be seen.

Then there’s LSR 2600, which should be setting off alarms:

“[R]elating to reproductive medical decisions. Providing that the state shall not infringe or unduly inconvenience the right of reproductive medical decisions.”

That’s not a proposed bill. It’s a proposed amendment to the New Hampshire Constitution. Sponsors thus far: Reps. Timothy Smith, Timothy Harrigan, Catherine Sofikitis, Sherry Frost, Chuck Grassie, Heidi Hamer, and Arthur Ellison.

I’ve been concerned that the privacy amendment recently added to the state constitution might be misinterpreted to protect the abortion industry. That’s nothing compared to this proposed amendment, which would embed abortion unambiguously into New Hampshire’s constitution in the guise of “reproductive medical decisions.”

The texts of bills should be available next month, with hearings beginning in January.

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.

More on State Budget and Abortion Funding: Keep Those Messages Going

The New Hampshire House will meet later this week, September 18 and 19, with the Senate meeting on the 19th. On the agenda: votes to sustain or override each of the Governor’s 50+ vetoes. At stake is the use of state general funds, i.e. taxpayer dollars, for direct and indirect funding of abortion.

Set out below are the reasons why it’s important to contact state representatives, state senators, and Governor Sununu with the clear unambiguous message: no public funding, direct or indirect, for abortion. That means sustaining the Governor’s veto of the state budget, and fighting to keep abortion out of any subsequent negotiated budget.

Governor Sununu has said reassuring things about direct funding of abortion. That is not the case about indirect funding, in which public dollars go to abortion providers purportedly for non-abortion work. Perhaps you have heard similar messages and non-messages from your own representatives.

At the heart of the matter: the state budget

The abortion funding question arises from Governor Sununu’s veto of the proposed state budget (see this blog’s earlier report). Enough concerned citizens have reached out to the Governor over the summer about this that his office has produced a form letter about it.

Thank you for contacting my office regarding abortion in New Hampshire. As Governor it has always been incredibly important to me to hear directly from Granite Staters on matters of great importance to them.

It is important for you to know that I have always opposed taxpayer funding of abortion, and have supported common-sense measures such as parental notification and the late-term abortion ban. In the past, I also supported legislative actions such as the Fetal Homicide Bill, Women’s Health Protection Act, and the Healthcare Freedom of Conscience Act.

Please let us know your thoughts and ideas on this important issue as we move forward, and please do not hesitate to contact my office should you have concerns in the future.

Sincerely,

Christopher T. Sununu, Governor

(The only bill the Governor mentions that he actually signed is fetal homicide. Parental notification was already in place when he was elected, and bills regarding the other policies he mentioned have not made it out of the legislature.)

I’ll send a thank-you to the Governor for his letter. I’ll mention that I expect an equally forthright answer on giving money to abortion providers.

Indirect funding: reinforcing an abortion-first business model

The state budget Governor Sununu vetoed included a dramatic increase in funding for family planning. Has there been some kind of spike in the rate of unexpected pregnancy in New Hampshire? Nope. The increase is about abortion.

The proposed increase is to compensate family planning providers who are also abortion providers and who are losing federal funds by refusing to stop doing abortion work.

Title X (Ten) is a federal family planning program that grants money to states for family planning work, allowing the states to choose the contractors to actually carry out the family planning programs. Title X funds have never been allowed for direct abortion. Beginning last month, under a new federal provision called the Protect Life Rule, no Title X funds may go to abortion providers. The total amount of Title X money is not reduced by the Protect Life Rule. That money is available to contractors who don’t do abortions.

As explained by Cornerstone Action (a nonprofit for which I’m communications consultant), “This recognizes the fact that there is no practical difference between funding abortion and funding abortion providers. Every public dollar that goes to an abortion provider for non-abortion work helps to subsidize the abortion side of the business, by means of overhead such as facilities, equipment, utilities, and staffing.”

Planned Parenthood of Northern New England announced that it would drop out of New Hampshire’s Title X program rather than stop doing abortions. The other two freestanding abortion facilities followed suit, and even a few public health agencies that do not provide abortions joined in, out of a misplaced solidarity with abortion providers.

So much for patients relying on Title X programs. They are elbowed aside as their providers carry abortion work to the head of the priority list.

Cornerstone’s explanation of the Protect Life Rule bears reading in full. Here’s another excerpt:

The Protect Life Rule does not reduce the amount of family planning money coming from the federal government. At the same time, it respects the conscience rights of everyone who recognizes that abortion is not health care and that each abortion ends a human life. 

Planned Parenthood and other abortion providers have had it both ways in the past, providing abortion and federally-subsidized family planning under the same roof. They oppose the Protect Life Rule. Their message to you is, “Shut up and pay. We’ve got a business to run.”

…PPNNE calls the Protect Life Rule a “gag rule,” saying it inhibits communication between patients and providers. In fact, all the new rule inhibits is the ability of abortion providers to use public money, including indirectly, to perform, refer or promote abortion. 

Messages now

I’m going to email the Governor, thank him for his stand on direct funding, and urge him to be just as firm on indirect funding.

I’m going to email or call my senator and representatives, asking them to uphold the Governor’s veto of the state budget. I’ll ask them to oppose any direct or indirect funding of abortion.

Some of them might come back at me and tell me this is about health care. No, it isn’t. It’s about abortion, and abortion is not health care. Any provider who says it can’t provide family planning services because of a loss of Title X funds needs to be reminded that it lost those funds because it put abortion first in its business model.