Pro-life policies in state budget: victory with an expiration date (UPDATED)

Update, 7/8/21: I am indebted to an attorney well-versed in pro-life policy who called me out on claiming that the language cited below would expire in two years. Instead, I’ll try for more clarity: it’s possible that it might not survive the next budget process. More about that below, in boldface.

For the first time since 1997, New Hampshire has a law limiting late-term abortion. Well, we’ll have one as of next January 1, and it may only be good – I said “may” – until the expiration of the budget on June 30, 2023. Still, after nearly a quarter-century, the Granite State will move ahead past the era of unregulated abortion.

I wondered if flipping the House and Senate would make a difference. Turns out it did.

It has taken me a couple of weeks to process this news. It’s stunning to me, as someone who was an activist even before 1997, to see this victory. Our pro-choice governor kept the word he gave in 2016. Pro-life reps worked to get pro-life language into the budget, after the Senate stalled a freestanding bill that would have done the job. Some pro-life budget conferees – who were Republicans, as it happens – wouldn’t let the provision be tossed out during budget negotiations.

We still don’t have abortion statistics, or a requirement that only medical personnel provide abortions (remember that the next time someone tells you abortion is a private “medical” decision), or conscience protection for health care workers who choose not to participate in the direct intentional termination of human life.

We can bet that the pro-life provisions in this budget will be up for debate and rejection in two years when the next budget is crafted. We can bet that the people promoting unregulated abortion will be fighting back, and in fact are doing so already.

So who wants it more? Do pro-life Granite Staters want to build on this victory?

What’s a pro-life law doing in the state budget?

Take a look at HB 2, the so-called trailer bill to HB 1. Together, the bills make up the state budget. The first few pages of HB 2 contain 139 specific spending instructions. As is traditional in the New Hampshire budget process, a bunch of bills that failed in the most recent legislative session found their way into HB 2. Topics ranged all over the place, so pro-life goals were hardly uppermost in budget crafters’ minds.

Number 15 among those 139 instructions is summarized thus in the bill’s analysis: “Prohibits the distribution of state funds awarded by the department of health and human services to a reproductive health care facility for provision of abortion services, and prohibits a health care provider from performing an abortion if the gestational age of the fetus is at least 24 weeks unless there is a medical emergency.”

Further along in the bill, on line 32 of page 13, we get the legislative name for this provision: “The Fetal Life Protection Act.” Sound familiar? It’s HB 625 from the past session.

Look at HB 2, page 14 line 14 to page 19 line 1. There’s the 24-week abortion limit.

HB 625 was passed by the House and tabled in the Senate. Thanks to pro-life legislators, the substance of the bill was rolled into HB 2. The usual suspects squawked, but the language survived the budget negotiation process. When Governor Sununu signed HB 1 and 2 into law, the pro-life language went into effect – but only on January 1, 2022, and it possibly might stand only for the duration of the current budget which will expire on June 30, 2023. [Note: an earlier version of this post said that the pro-life language would expire. In fact, the language MIGHT expire if the next legislature chooses to stick a repeal measure into 2023’s HB 2.]

Updated 7/8/21: I fear that the lesson here will be “live by HB 2, die by HB 2.” Sticking a long-sought pro-life provision into the state budget, the ultimate omnibus bill, was a successful tactic this year. You know what might be a successful tactic next time a budget is crafted in 2023? Inserting a repeal of the Fetal Life Protection Act into the state budget. It all depends who’s in the majority and who’s willing to defend pro-life policy. If pro-life policy was supported in this year’s budget – and it was – it will be just as easy for abortion advocates to repeal it in the next one.

Protecting taxpayers from funding abortion

What about taxpayer funding? Go to HB 2, page 13 line 32. In state contracts, “no state funds shall be used to subsidize abortions, either directly or indirectly.” This is backed up by an audit requirement. This is great to see in these days when the federal authorities take a very different line.

If an audit of a state contractor finds that state contract funds have been used to subsidize abortion, the contractor shall be ineligible for future state contracts or grants, OR shall “suspend all operations until such time as the state funded family planning project is physically and financially separate from any reproductive health facility.”

Will that be enforced? We’ll see.

On “seismic shifts”

Here’s a July 4 New Hampshire Sunday News headline, front page above the fold: “Some women see betrayal in budget’s social policies.” A paywall may prevent you from seeing the entire article, but the opening lines give you the gist. “Many New Hampshire women say they feel angry, outraged, even threatened, after state lawmakers inserted a number of social policies, including new abortion restrictions, into the state budget trailer bill. For many, the current atmosphere in Concord feels like a seismic shift in a state with a long history of trailblazing women.”

There’s been a seismic shift, all right, and it isn’t about undermining trailblazing women. It’s about pro-life women and their allies finally earning a seat at the table and refusing to be treated as tokens. It’s about coalition building and coalition management that has not always come easy to pro-life policymakers. It’s a seismic shift for any New Hampshire leader calling himself pro-choice to sign legislation that upsets abortion extremists.

I say bring on the seismic shifts. They’ve been a long time coming.

On an inside page of the Sunday News article, a pro-life voice is finally mentioned. Shannon McGinley of Cornerstone Action pointed out that not all women see “betrayal” in the budget. “Seven women legislators sponsored HB 625….I believe that women understand that abortion has not liberated women and that we can do better than abortion….”

In various posts I keep referring to Cornerstone Action, on whose behalf I used to lobby. No promotion or self-interest is involved. It’s just that they happen to have provided the most clarity as HB 625 and then the budget made their way through the legislative process. See their FAQs on the late-term abortion ban and their about-time-somebody-said-it “Pro-abortion Leaders are Lying about HB 2 Ultrasound Requirements.”

Next steps

Thank Governor Sununu. The man has done some infuriating things, but he got this one right. Tell him so.

Pray and work. If you’re involved in front-line pro-life ministry, make sure the community knows that the ministry exists.

Women who DON’T feel “betrayed” by pro-life policies might want to tell the Union Leader, after that July 4 front-page article. A social media post with a @UnionLeader tag would do, as would a more traditional letter to the editor. While you’re reading that article, take note of the people and organizations who opposed pro-life language.

Practice persuasion, even on legislation that doesn’t directly address anyone’s right to life. Extremism has held sway in Concord for so long that some legislators think conscience rights don’t exist where abortion is concerned. Some have forgotten that the First Amendment applies to peaceful pro-life witnesses. Remind them, as a neighbor.

To all who helped bring about this particular seismic shift, well done.

Life-issue bills: NH Senate to vote on committee recommendations this week

The New Hampshire Senate will meet Thursday, May 27 at 10 a.m. to consider Judiciary Committee recommendations on two life-issue bills.

HB 625, Fetal Life Protection Act

The Judiciary Committee voted 3-2 along party lines (GOP majority) to recommend Ought to Pass with Amendment on HB 625, concerning late-term abortions.

The committee – including Sen. William Gannon – did not recommend adding an exception for eugenic abortion. (See this blog’s earlier report on the bill.) Cornerstone Action, which favors HB 625, posted a report worth reading in full, outlining the committee’s actions and giving a call to action.

From the Cornerstone message: Contact your Senator now and ask him or her to support a floor amendment adopting—at minimum—the severability and ‘physician requirement’ sections of the Birdsell amendment. These changes are critical to protecting the bill [HB 625], both in court and against a possible veto.

HB 233, Born-Alive Infant Protection

A born-alive infant protection bill will not pass the year, with the Senate Judiciary Committee voting to re-refer HB 233.

Re-referral is the Senate’s version of what the House calls “retaining” a bill. The procedure keeps a bill in committee for the remainder of the calendar year, preventing a full-Senate vote until 2022.

The Senate’s May 27 session will be streamed online at http://sg001-harmony.sliq.net/00286/Harmony/en/View/Calendar/20210527/-1. This link will not be live until the session begins.

Recent House roll calls: limiting late-term abortion, HB 625

The New Hampshire House voted 191-160 to pass HB 625, limiting abortions after 24 weeks’ gestation, with an exception for a mother’s medical emergency. The roll call is on the General Court website.

Contact information for representatives is on the General Court site as well. Thank-yous where they’re due would undoubtedly be welcomed.

A few notes

Committee recommendation overturned

Before voting on an “Ought to Pass” motion, the House had to take up the Judiciary Committee’s 11-10 recommendation of “Inexpedient to Legislate.” The House overturned the committee recommendation, as it later did with the committee’s ITL recommendation for HB 233 (born-alive protection).

No walkout

Unlike with the born-alive protection bill, there was no walkout by HB 625’s opponents. Only thirteen representatives are on the roll call as “Not Voting.”

Protecting born-alive children triggered a walkout by some House members, while limiting abortion did not. Interesting contrast there.

I have a separate post on the born-alive vote.

Party lines

The vote was generally along party lines, with Republicans in the majority. The exceptions are noted here.

Three Democrats joined 188 Republicans in voting “Ought to Pass (OTP)”: Richard Ames (Jaffrey), Stacie-Marie Laughton (Nashua), and John Mann (Alstead).

Fourteen Republicans joined 146 Democrats in opposing the OTP motion: James Allard (Pittsfield), Lex Berezhny (Grafton), Joseph Depalma IV (Littleton), Oliver Ford (Chester), Edward “Ned” Gordon (Bristol; Chairman of House Judiciary; voted against bill in committee), John Hunt (Rindge), John Lewicke (Mason), Norman Major (Plaistow), James Mason (Franklin), Russell Ober (Hudson), Diane Pauer (Brookline), Andrew Prout (Hudson), Dan Wolf (Newbury), and Josh Yokela (Fremont).

Next step

HB 625 will head to the Senate, where Republicans hold a 14-10 majority. As seen with the House roll call, though, party lines won’t necessarily hold.

Header photo by Dan Evans/Pixabay.

Recent House roll calls: born-alive protection, HB 233

The recent New Hampshire House roll call vote on born-alive protection for abortion survivors was largely along party lines, but not entirely. The HB 233 vote was messy, for various reasons. The walkout on the bill (as previously reported on this blog) could leave voters wondering if “Not Voting” next to a rep’s name means opposition or just indifference.

With all those caveats, we can now see how New Hampshire’s state representatives voted on one of the most important bills of the session so far, an act “relative to the right of any infant born alive to medically appropriate and reasonable care and treatment.”

I have a separate post on the session’s other life-issue bill, HB 625, on late-term abortion.

Setting the stage

HB 233 was finally passed 181-49 on a division vote. “Division” means a count was taken, but no names were associated with the votes. We don’t know who voted “ought to pass.” What we do know is who voted “inexpedient to legislate,” which was a separate motion.

A look at the bill’s docket shows that no fewer than eight votes were cast on the bill or the procedures associated with it: one voice vote, three roll calls, and 4 divisions. Throw in the walkout, and we have a sense of the urgency felt by the bill’s opponents trying to derail HB 233 by any means necessary.

Remember, HB 233 is not an abortion bill. It is about protecting children already born.

You can find your own state representatives’ names and contact information on the General Court website. I recommend saying thank-you where appropriate.

The most useful vote

Among those eight votes on HB 233, the clearest and most useful vote for future reference was the roll call vote on the Judiciary Committee’s “inexpedient to legislate” motion. That was basically a simple question: shall we kill this bill? That motion failed, 46-186.

The complete roll call on the ITL motion is here. Because the motion for that roll call was “inexpedient to legislate (ITL),” a Yea vote was a vote to kill the born-alive bill. (If you are looking at the bill’s docket, see vote #40.)

That means 186 representatives went on record against killing the bill. Looks like a double negative, but that’s what happens when the motion is “inexpedient to legislate.”

I mention some party affiliations in order to sketch in the exceptions to what was otherwise a party-line vote, with most Republicans favoring the bill and thus opposing the ITL motion.

Against the party-line tide: Democrats voting against the ITL motion

Three Democrats chose not to walk out and instead go on record opposing the ITL motion. They were Larry Laflamme of Berlin, Cecilia Rich of Somersworth, and Stephen Woodcock of Center Conway.

Against the party-line tide: Republicans supporting ITL

On the other hand, twelve Republicans joined 34 Democrats in supporting the “inexpedient to legislate” motion:

Lex Berezhny (Grafton), Joseph Depalma IV (Littleton), Edward “Ned” Gordon (Bristol; chairman of Judiciary Committee; he joined committee Democrats in the committee’s 11-10 ITL recommendation), John Graham (Bedford), John Hunt (Rindge), Melissa Litchfield (Brentwood), James Mason (Franklin), Russell Ober (Hudson), Diane Pauer (Brookline), Dennis Thompson (Stewartstown), Dan Wolf (Newbury), Josh Yokela (Fremont).

How many reps bailed out on the vote?

The number of representatives listed as “Not Voting” on HB 233 – as opposed to “Excused,” which is a formal advance notification to the House Clerk of absence for cause – was 121. That reflects the walkout.

That’s right: one hundred twenty-one. If your representatives were among them, feel free to ask them why they left. Maybe they had a good reason. Maybe they didn’t. Maybe they were confused about the motion. Don’t assume. Ask.

Party line? Close. Seven Republicans joined 114 Democrats in “Not Voting”: Dennis Acton (Fremont), David Danielson (Bedford), Joseph Guthrie (Hampstead), Mary Ann Kimball (Derry), David Lundgren and Betsy McKinney (both of Londonderry), and Mark Warden (Manchester).

One of my reps (a Democrat) walked out. As she explained on Facebook, “We were hoping to deprive the House of a quorum to vote on it, but it passed anyway.” I appreciate her candor, even if I don’t appreciate her walking out on her job. Perhaps her action was instructive, and someday a bill she supports will fall victim to a quorum call. Who knows?

If you look at the roll call you’ll see there were 44 excused absences, which is on the high side for a session. COVID concerns may have played a role. Given the walkout on HB 233, the bill would have passed anyway, even if all the representatives with excused absences had voted against it.

Next step

The next public hearing on HB 233 hasn’t been scheduled yet. We’ll have to wait awhile to see what the bill’s opponents will do next to kill a bill to provide medically appropriate and reasonable care to any infant born alive.

Header photo: Daisy Laparra/Pexels

N.H. House Judiciary life-issue hearings next week

Two bills to change New Hampshire’s policy of unrestricted abortion, along with bills to repeal the buffer zone law, bar public funding of abortion, and protect children born alive after attempted abortion, will be heard in the New Hampshire House Judiciary Committee on February 9 and 10.

These measures respecting human life and conscience may be voted on by the committee at any time after the hearings, without a separately-scheduled session.

To me, some of these bills clearly show better legislative preparation than others. Some show more broad-based support than others. Read them for yourself – then act.

The committee will accept testimony remotely. There is no public access to the Legislative Office Building. You can sign in electronically anytime before the hearings to register your opinion. In an earlier post, I summarized the new testimony and sign-in procedures. Here’s a quick review, followed by details of the hearings and links to the bills.

How to weigh in

  • You can sign in on a bill before its hearing, even days before, so that committee members and staff have your opinion on record. No testimony is needed for this simple step. Signing in is easy. Share this link with like-minded friends: http://gencourt.state.nh.us/house/committees/remotetestimony/default.aspx
  • You can email the Judiciary Committee with your written opinion and testimony on any or all of these bills, using a separate message for each bill. A message to HouseJudiciaryCommittee@leg.state.nh.us will reach all 21 committee members.
  • You can testify online during the hearings, using the sign-in procedure in advance and then joining the online Zoom videoconference the day of the hearing. Links are below, taken from the February 5 House Calendar. Note that there is a telephone option as well. These hearings are likely to be lengthy.
  • You can listen to the hearings without testifying, by listening via Zoom. The NH House of Representatives Committee Streaming channel on YouTube may be another option.
  • What you cannot do is go to Concord and have face-to-face contact with the committee members, which makes electronic communication vitally important.

What’s the “FN” attached to some bills?

“FN” stands for Fiscal Note, a reference to the bill’s potential cost. It is not essential to include FN when contacting a legislator. For example, HB 233 and HB 233-FN refer to the same bill.

Tuesday, February 9

Zoom log-in: join any of Tuesday’s Judiciary hearings by going online to https://www.zoom.us/j/96805083773, or dialing 1-929-205-6099 (note: that is a toll number; keep that in mind if you’re calling from a landline!). The webinar ID is 968 0508 3773.

To sign in, registering your opinion: fill out this form on the House website, once for each bill. You will cite the hearing date, committee (Judiciary), bill number, and whether you support or oppose the bill. If you intend to testify, you may indicate that on the sign-in form. To share the sign-in link, use this URL: http://gencourt.state.nh.us/house/committees/remotetestimony/default.aspx

9 a.m.: combined hearing on two bills to restrict post-viability abortions

HB 622-FN: an act to protect nascent human life as a reasonable and valid state interest. This bill would bar abortion of a viable fetus, except in cases of “a clear and present danger to the life or health of the mother.” Sponsors: Reps. Walter Stapleton (R-Claremont), Max Abramson (R-Seabrook), Bill Nelson (R-Brookfield), Mark Pearson (R-Hampstead).

HB 625-FN: the Fetal Life Protection Act, barring abortions after the fetus reaches 24 weeks gestational age, with exceptions for medical emergencies. Sponsors: Reps. Beth Folsom (R-Wentworth), Katherine Prudhomme-O’Brien (R-Derry), Maureen Mooney (R-Merrimack), Linda Gould (R-Bedford), Jeanine Notter (R-Merrimack), Walter Stapleton, and Senators Ruth Ward (R-Stoddard) and Regina Birdsell (R-Hampstead).

2 p.m.: buffer zone repeal

HB 430: the Sidewalk Free Speech Act, “repealing the prohibition on entering or remaining on a public way or sidewalk adjacent to a reproductive health facility.” This one has as many official sponsors as a bill is allowed to list: ten reps, five senators. Perhaps with this fifth attempt, lawmakers will finally repeal the anti-First-Amendment “buffer zone” law passed in 2014 but never enforced.

Sponsors: Reps. Niki Kelsey (R-Bedford), Hershel Nunez (R-Pelham), Tim Baxter (R-Seabrook), Linda Gould, Walter Stapleton, Maureen Mooney, Jeanine Notter, Mark Pearson, Vanessa Sheehan (R-Milford), Matt Simon (R-Littleton), and Sens. Denise Ricciardi (R-Bedford), Regina Birdsell, Gary Daniels (R-Milford), Jeb Bradley (R-Wolfeboro), and Kevin Avard (R-Nashua).

Wednesday, February 10

Zoom log-in: join any of Wednesday’s Judiciary hearings by going online to https://www.zoom.us/j/91322816360, or dialing 1-929-205-6099 (note: that is a toll number; keep that in mind if you’re calling from a landline!). The webinar ID is 913 2281 6360.

To sign in, registering your opinion: fill out this form on the House website, once for each bill. You will cite the hearing date, committee (Judiciary), bill number, and whether you support or oppose the bill. If you intend to testify, you may indicate that on the sign-in form. To share the sign-in link, use this URL: http://gencourt.state.nh.us/house/committees/remotetestimony/default.aspx

9 a.m.: combined hearing on two bills to bar public funding of abortions

HB 434: the No Public Funds for Abortion Act. This one does what looks like a thorough job of ruling out avenues for state-level taxpayer funding of abortion, with exceptions for “abortion performed when the life of the mother is endangered by a physical disorder, physical illness, or physical injury including a life-endangering physical condition caused by or arising from the pregnancy itself.” Sponsors: Reps. Vanessa Sheehan, Maureen Mooney, Kim Rice (R-Hudson), Jim Creighton (R-Antrim), Matt Simon, Mark Pearson, Linda Gould, Debra DeSimone (R-Atkinson), Bill King (R-Milford), Diane Pauer (R-Brookline), and Senators Gary Daniels, Denise Ricciardi, and Ruth Ward.

HB 596-FN: the Life Appropriation Act, barring state funding of “convenience” abortions, including funding to agencies that perform such abortions, even if potential funding is for a non-abortion purpose. The bill would also establish a Foster Care and Adoption Initiative Fund. Sponsor: Rep. Fred Plett (R-Goffstown).

1 p.m.: born-alive infant protection

HB 233-FN: the Born-Alive Infant Protection Act. “Any born alive infant, including one born in the course of an abortion, shall be treated as a legal person under the laws of this state, with the same rights to medically appropriate and reasonable care and treatment.” Sponsors: Reps. Jordan Ulery (R-Hudson) and Walter Stapleton.

Share this information

The committee needs to get public comment before the hearings. Every sign-in counts, even without testimony attached. The tallies are going to be news, watched not only by committee members and the customary observers, but also – unless I miss my guess – by Governor Sununu.

According to an email from its “director of advocacy,” the New Hampshire Medical Society will be opposing all of these measures. That includes buffer zone repeal, which has no bearing on abortion itself and is purely a First Amendment issue. Pro-life medical professionals, take note. The Society will speak up. Will you?

Post header image by Gerd Altmann/Pixabay.