Running the Numbers on the Override Votes

Anyone taking results for granted on next week’s override votes in New Hampshire is simply not paying attention.

Two-thirds of members present & voting in each chamber the day of the vote are required for an override. At the moment, even with the departure of Andy Sanborn, that still means 16 votes in the now-23-member Senate, which normally enjoys full attendance on session days. With the recent departures of Laurie Sanborn and D.J. Bettencourt in the House, there are 395 seats occupied, although attendance for floor sessions is usually substantially lower. (Corrections to that figure are welcomed. Resignations have kept the House below 400 members for most of this session.)

HB 1679, the partial-birth-abortion ban, passed the Senate 18-5, with Sen. DeBlois absent. Assuming no changes, even with the loss of Sanborn’s vote, the Senate will override. Ditto for HB 217, fetal homicide, which passed 18-6. That’s the good news.

The House is a different story, and since these override attempts will begin in the House, the Senate might not even get a crack at these bills. The vote hinges on three questions: will the Yea votes hold? Are any of the Nays reversible? Perhaps most significantly, how many reps will show up Wednesday?

HB 1679 passed the House 224-110, with a whopping 36 excused absences and 27 other reps simply choosing not to vote. HB 217 passed 213-125, with 47 excused absences and eleven other reps not voting. That means based on the attendance for these votes, HB 1679 reached a two-thirds majority by two votes. HB 217 was thirteen votes shy of two-thirds.

If everyone shows up for veto day – granted, that’s not likely – 264 votes are needed for override. Most challenging scenario: HB 1679 needs to hold all its previous Yeas, and add 40 more. HB 217 needs to pick up 51 votes on top of the original Yeas. Lower attendance in the House will mean fewer votes needed for override.

One hint to all the Republicans: do not count on any Democrats staying home. The minority party this session has been exemplary in its attendance and its unity. It’s actually remarkable that nine Democrats supported a ban on partial-birth abortion, while four supported the fetal homicide bill. Minority leader Terie Norelli is no doubt working to rope in those few stray votes.  Republicans were sharply fractured, despite leadership’s support for these bills: 27 voted against HB 1679; 42 opposed HB 217.

Phone calls and emails between now and the morning of June 27th could make the difference.

Backward & Forward

Custer went forward. Lemmings go forward. The Light Brigade went forward. And now, in an exquisitely apt marketing move, the incumbent president has chosen “Forward” as the slogan for his re-election campaign.

The vice-president, in a noisy visit to Keene State College a few days ago (why does he always wind up yelling at his audience, anyway?), pleased the youthful crowd by declaring “we will not go back to the 50s on social policy.”

So social policy shall move “forward” if the incumbent president is re-elected. Social policy includes abortion, which will remain legal if we choose to move “forward”. Not safe-and-rare, as former presidents have said in an effort to sound moderate.  Just legal, so we don’t go back to the bad old pre-Roe v. Wade days of back alleys & knitting needles and women dying.

Listening at one hearing after another in Concord this year on bills that touch on the life issues, I was struck more than once by how many of Roe’s defenders sounded scared of the future even as they said they were determined not to go back into the past.

Eugenic abortion was surely one of the twentieth century’s most ghastly ideas – one that belongs in the past, even when it’s prettied up with the euphemism “therapeutic.” Yet this year, I heard objections to New Hampshire’s fetal homicide bill (still in the balance, by the way, with yet another vote coming next week) based on the fear that it might interfere with selective reduction. Assisted reproductive technologies that call for implantation of multiple embryos in a woman’s womb also call for the culling of the surplus once pregnancy is established. Apparently, to protect the brave new world, he only way to face the future is by planting one foot firmly in the past.

A bill for informed consent for abortion prompted some women to recount heartbreaking stories of pregnancies gone tragically wrong, with fetal anomalies diagnosed prenatally. The mothers chose abortion, because it “wasn’t fair” to bring such a child into the world. So what’s wrong with informed consent? These women said they resented the assumption that abortion providers weren’t already being perfectly upfront. They also complained that the 24-hour waiting period in the bill would have caused them an additional 24 hours of anguish (with the unspoken corollary being that their anguish somehow subsided once their children were dead). Keep abortion quick and unregulated: no back-alley abortionist from the 1950s could have asked for more. Those shades of the 50s can rest easy, knowing that New Hampshire’s 2012 informed consent bill was killed.

New Hampshire public health officials do not collect abortion statistics, letting the abortion industry voluntarily provide whatever information it sees fit. A bill to require collection of statistics was passed this year after being amended into nearly-unrecognizable form, and now a committee will consider whether it’s a good idea to collect the statistics. (This is glacial progress, as opposed to incremental.) Who fought this one? Abortion providers.  Planned Parenthood of Northern New England along with the Feminist Health Center in Concord and the Lovering Center in Greenland all sent representatives to the hearings on this one. They all earnestly assured legislators that they DO report the number of abortions done at their facilities. Honest. They do not want oversight even to the extent of accounting for the number of procedures or reporting on morbidity and mortality to the women who have abortions. Again, the pre-Roe industry of illegal abortionists would approve wholeheartedly.

In the past, no one kept track of how many women suffered and died after abortion. Bernard Nathanson, MD, a founder of NARAL who later became a pro-life advocate, wrote candidly after leaving the abortion industry that NARAL leaders invented maternal-mortality figures in the late 1960s to try to build support for liberalization of abortion laws. To this day, we don’t know if legal abortion has been any safer for women. The same people who criticize anecdotal reports from pro-life sources, and demand hard figures, flee from those figures when they make their own arguments. (By the way, if you can find Nathanson’s book Aborting America, read it. It’s one of those basic books for the pro-life library.)

Moving forward, really forward, means we will want to know for sure how many women are being left to die or suffer permanent injury after abortion. We will want to know who is doing the procedures and we’ll want to know the safety record of the provider (granting that the babies always wind up dead). We’ll want to know at what point in pregnancy the terminations take place. We’ll want to do more for each other than recommend death when disability looms.

So, forward, Mr. Biden?

Week in Review: Hurry Up & Wait

As previously reported, the Senate last Wednesday passed HCR 31, commending pregnancy care centers. This straightforward legislative pat on the back to an invaluable pro-life resource must go to the House for agreement on some changes.

HB 217, fetal homicide, was put off by the Senate until next Wednesday. The amendment printed in the calendar should not create any further delay, but then again, there have already been two delays that caught me and the chief sponsor by surprise.

HCR 41 was killed in the Senate. This resolution asking Congress to scold the feds for funding PPNNE over the objections of the Executive Council would have had no substantive effect but would have sent a message to our Washington representatives.

Legislators annoyed by the financial end-run in PPNNE’s favor should now focus on HB 228. There will be other contract proposals before the Exec Council, and HB 228 sits on the table in the Senate. That’s not a good place for it.

Fate unknown, possibly being taken up this week:

  • HB 1679, partial-birth abortion ban. House & Senate must reconcile language.
  • HB 1653, respecting conscience rights for medical professionals, was tabled by the House months ago and seems unlikely to be taken up.

The legislative session runs through the end of June, but the state budget dominates the last weeks of a session. The life bills are likely to be dealt with soon.

The House will meet next week on Tuesday & Wednesday, and possibly Thursday if the lengthy calendar requires that much time. The Senate will meet Wednesday.

Chuck Colson, RIP

Chuck Colson died today at the age of 80.  I owe him thanks,  and so does anyone else who holds dear religious freedom and the right to life. 

When I first heard of him, he was a villain of the Watergate scandal. I was a teenager at that time, in the early stages of political activism, and Watergate’s figures were clearly divided in my view between the Good Guys & the Bad Guys. Colson was decidedly and unapologetically one of the Bad Guys, seeming to deserve the media characterization of him as a “hatchet man” for Nixon. He wound up in prison for a brief time, where he experienced deep and fundamental conversion of heart. Like many people, I was skeptical that a “Bad Guy” could change.

Wrong, wrong, wrong. I was humbled to realize how mistaken I could be. He wore himself out in life-affirming ministries, most famously prison ministry.

Among the gifts he left us is the Manhattan Declaration from 2009, a “call to Christian conscience.” (Among Colson’s other work, he was a champion of ecumenical progress.) 
Discover it for yourself here.