Do Exceptions Help, Politically?

A Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act has passed the U.S. House and is on its way to the U.S. Senate. It would restrict abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy, a point at which there is evidence that the preborn child feels pain. That’s “restrict,” not “prevent.” The bill carries a rape-and-incest exception.


The ability to feel pain is not a function of the criminal activity of one’s biological father, so the exception undermines the whole science-is-on-our-side defense of Pain-Capable. Darlene Pawlik expands on the problematic nature of the exception in “I’m Pain-Capable, How ’bout You?

I appreciate the good intentions in this attempt to protect at least some children, and I’m not going to work for the defeat of a candidate solely on the basis of supporting Pain-Capable in its current form. I just have to wonder why the exception is in there. From a pragmatic point of view, does it gain any votes over a no-exceptions bill?

I don’t know, but I can recall a situation in New Hampshire last year when one abortion bill had no rape-and-incest exception while two others did. Was there a big difference in the results among those three votes? Not really. From my March 15, 2016 post:

There were three bills [in NH in 2016] to restrict mid- and late-term abortions. One of them, HB 1328, would have instituted a 20-week limit with an exception for abortions following rape or incest. The other bills would have limited abortions at viability (HB 1625) and at the point where the preborn child can feel pain (HB 1636). Was there any tactical advantage to including exceptions in one of the bills?

Not that I could see. Only seven representatives voted FOR the bill with exceptions and AGAINST the other two mid- and late-term bills. On the other hand, twelve representatives did the opposite, opposing the exceptions bill while supporting the HB 1625 and HB 1636.

All three of those bills failed, although HB 1625 – to prohibit abortion after viability, without a rape-and-incest exception – lost by only three votes.

Congressman Steve Scalise, the Republican Majority Whip, has acknowledged that passage of the Pain-Capable Act in Congress took some effort. I expect the same will be true in the Senate.

Whose Senate vote will be granted or withheld on the basis of exceptions language? Is there any tactical advantage to the exceptions? I don’t know, but what I saw in Concord in 2016 makes me wonder.

 

Aftermath: roll calls of selected N.H. House votes

Among hundreds of bills disposed of thus far this year by the New Hampshire House, ten have touched on abortion and one on First Amendment rights outside abortion facilities. All eleven of those bills had roll calls.

Here’s a PDF document I’ve prepared, listing all eleven votes. To view it on your own device where you can enlarge the document, click on the “download” link below the image.  (Alternatively, depending on your browser, you may see a box in the upper right corner of the image that will allow you to click for a pop-up view.) See the provisos below, which you need to take into consideration as you view the data.

Selected NH House votes, 2016

You can confirm these and other roll call votes on the legislative dashboard of the New Hampshire legislative web page.  You can identify your own district’s representatives on that site as well.

A few provisos

First, while this is an advocacy blog, it is not an advocacy PAC. Second, the interpretation of the votes is my own and is admittedly subjective. I use an open circle to designate what I see in broad terms as a pro-life vote and an “x” to indicate the opposite. Each column is headed with a brief explanation of the bill and the motion that received a roll call. You may decide that the inclusion of a bill with exceptions is inappropriate, but bear with me. I’ll explain in the notes below why I listed that bill.

Third, be aware that these votes occurred on only two session days, so someone with an excused absence on (for example) March 9 would naturally miss many of the votes. Fourth, these eleven bills don’t cover the full spectrum of right-to-life issues – no death penalty votes here, for example, since the House killed death penalty expansion this year on a voice vote. Finally, you won’t find a “score” for any representative on the sheet.

How many of these bills survived to move on to the Senate?

Only one, repeal of the buffer zone (HB 1570), made it past the House.

What’s with all the “not voting” notes?

“Not voting” means that the representative did not have an excused absence for the day or half-day as reported to the House clerk in advance. The only way to confirm why your reps missed one or more votes is to ask them. 

Yes, some reps make a point of bailing out when abortion is the issue. There are other reasons for missing votes, though. The March 9 bills, for example, were voted on between 5 and 8 p.m. at the end of a session that began at 9 a.m. Late in the day, responsibilities to families or employment (remember that reps earn only $100 per year for their service) can prompt representatives to leave the State House.

Did a rape-and-incest exception gain or lose any votes?

There were three bills to restrict mid- and late-term abortions. One of them, HB 1328, would have instituted a 20-week limit with an exception for abortions following rape or incest. The other bills would have limited abortions at viability (HB 1625) and at the point where the preborn child can feel pain (HB 1636). Was there any tactical advantage to including exceptions in one of the bills?

Not that I could see. Only seven representatives voted FOR the bill with exceptions and AGAINST the other two mid- and late-term bills. On the other hand, twelve representatives did the opposite, opposing the exceptions bill while supporting the HB 1625 and HB 1636.

Privacy amendment: more information needed

More than a dozen representatives with strong pro-life records, some extending back years, voted in favor of CACR 22, the proposed constitutional amendment on privacy. That earned an “x” from me. Shortly before the vote, attorneys with national experience warned that such amendments had been used in other states to expand abortion and overturn existing regulations. I and others reported our concern.

Before any such amendment comes back – and you can bet that it will, in a future session – written documentation of the misuse of privacy amendments in other states needs to be in the hands of legislators. A majority of representatives supported the amendment, but a three-fifths vote was necessary for passage.

First Amendment protection: a narrow victory

The Senate will get the buffer zone repeal bill after the House passed it 160-152. That’s too close for comfort. Sixty representatives were “not voting” on that one. Support for First Amendment rights of peaceful pro-life witnesses shouldn’t depend on who shows up in Representatives Hall on a given day.

Genetic abnormality as a reason for abortion: a troubling vote

HB 1623, prohibiting abortion for reasons of fetal genetic abnormality, got a lopsided thumbs-down. Two hundred twenty-four reps voted to kill the bill. Anyone concerned about the rights of disabled human beings ought to give that vote some thought.

Notable consistency

At high risk of annoying some reps who might have missed votes for a good reason or who chose to support CACR 22, I think it’s worth noting who was present for all eleven votes, and who from my point of view voted soundly on each one.  As it happens, all are Republicans. (Anyone looking for straight “x”s can peruse the PDF and will find all Democrats with one exception: the GOP rep from Pelham who once stated in committee that handing a woman a pamphlet could be an act of violence.)

Thumbs up to these state representatives:

  • Belknap County: Brian Gallagher, Shari LeBreche.
  • Carroll County: Frank McCarthy, Glenn Cordelli, Bill Nelson.
  • Grafton County: Eric Johnson, Paul Ingbretson, Duane Brown.
  • Hillsborough County: Rick Christie, Linda Gould, Victoria Sullivan, Jeanine Notter, Eric Eastman, Carl Seidel, Edith Hogan, Jordan Ulery.
  • Merrimack County: J.R. Hoell.
  • Rockingham County: Bruce Hodgdon, James Spillane, Lawrence “Mike” Kappler, William Gannon, Chris True, Al Baldasaro, David Bates, John Sytek, Jeffrey Harris, Dan Itse, Dennis Green.
  • Strafford County: Leonard Turcotte, Warren Groen, Thomas Kaczynski Jr.

 

 

Darlene Pawlik and Rebecca Kiessling: “Did I deserve the death penalty?”

Seventh in the Voices to Trust series.

Rebecca Kiessling of Save the 1 is featured in an ad for Feminists for Life. She is a woman who was conceived in rape, and she has one question about rape-and-incest exceptions to abortion regulation.

Download (PDF, 39KB)

Rebecca Kiessling in NH, 2014. Photo by Ellen Kolb.
Rebecca Kiessling in NH, 2014. Photo by Ellen Kolb.

I interviewed Rebecca a couple of years ago. When asked about the no-exceptions position being a tough sell, she replied, “We need to speak words of life and value. Even pro-lifers need to be careful in the way they communicate. We want to change hearts and minds….Point out that rape and incest exceptions benefit the perpetrator. Abortion hides evidence of his crime. Protect a woman from rape and abortion, not from a baby.”

Darlene Pawlik. Photo by Ellen Kolb.
Darlene Pawlik. Photo by Ellen Kolb.

Darlene Pawlik of New Hampshire, also of Save the 1, is a trustee of New Hampshire Right to Life. She was conceived in rape and as a teenager was sexually trafficked.  Today, she speaks and writes about the need to defend life at all stages, regardless of the circumstances of conception. In a 2013 interview with me, Darlene said that when she decided to go public with her story, a friend advised her not to. Darlene went ahead anyway. “I said stop. No more secrets. I am the ‘exception.’

Darlene’s web site, thedarlingprincess.com, carries the tag line “Bad beginnings do not necessitate bad endings.” She writes, “I am so passionate about the value of every life; whether one is conceived with wine and roses, in a test tube or as a result of violence. I absolut[e]ly reject the utilitarian view that people are valuable only if they can contribute to society in arbitrarily contrived ways. We should all hold to the Declaration of Independence’s admonition that each of us is endowed by our Creator with certain inalienable rights: the right to life liberty and the pursuit of happiness. One’s right to life trumps all other rights.”

See a related post from 2013 about Darlene and Rebecca.