Faced with a deadline for vacating its borrowed venue, the New Hampshire House ended crossover day by effectively tabling a number of bills including HB 430, buffer zone repeal.
The House met on April 7, 8, and 9 at NH Sportsplex in Bedford, allowing for seating spaced according to current COVID protocols. Friday the 9th was crossover day, the deadline for all bills originating in the House this year to be disposed of one way or another. Leaders in both parties knew in advance that the Sportsplex needed the House to adjourn by early Friday evening in order to accommodate other users of the facility.
The deadline came, with many bills still unaddressed. Result: in the absence of a vote, the unaddressed bills – including buffer zone repeal – will not advance in 2021.
At this writing, the docket for HB 430 lists its status as “miscellaneous.” That’s one way to put it.
To my knowledge, there is nothing to prevent these deferred bills from coming back in 2022, since that will be part of the same legislative biennium.
This isn’t over. Repeal bills will keep popping up, year after year. There ought not be room in New Hampshire law for a statute that allows a private entity to bar the presence of peaceful people from a public space.
New Hampshire’s buffer zone law permits managers of abortion facilities to determine where and when the public may be present on public property within “up to 25 feet” of a facility.
The buffer zone law was signed by then-Governor Maggie Hassan in 2014 with support from abortion lobbyists, despite the McCullen v. Coakley decision issued by the U.S. Supreme Court the same month striking down a similar Massachusetts law.
President-elect Joe Biden has announced his intention to nominate Xavier Becerra to be the next Secretary of Health and Human Services. Becerra, currently California’s Attorney General, has a curious history when it comes to recognizing the free speech and conscience rights of his pro-life neighbors.
(I am not going to engage in a debate over who won the election. I think it’s unwise to pretend that Mr. Biden won’t be calling the shots as of Inauguration Day.)
Becerra succeeded Kamala Harris as California AG, after Harris was elected to the U.S. Senate. She is now vice-president-elect.
As Attorney General, Becerra followed Harris’s lead in two cases of particular interest to pro-life Americans.
The NIFLA case
In 2015, California legislators passed a law they dubbed the “Reproductive FACT Act.” It targeted pro-life pregnancy care centers, and their workers and volunteers, by requiring them to to provide information on how to obtain state-funded abortions. There were penalties for noncompliance.
The law prompted a lawsuit from an umbrella organization for several pregnancy care centers, National Institute of Family and Life Advocates (NIFLA). Harris and later Becerra represented California in defending the law.
The lawsuit made it to the Supreme Court, which in 2018’s NIFLA v. Becerra decision sided with NIFLA on a 5-4 vote.
NIFLA defenders summarize the decision
Attorneys with Alliance Defending Freedom represented NIFLA. Writing about the decision, ADF’s Maureen Collins wrote about the effects of the ruling. “Forcing someone to speak against their beliefs not only goes against the freedom of speech, it goes against plain common sense. Under this particular law, the very pregnancy centers dedicated to giving women alternatives to abortion were compelled by the state to advertise for abortion….The Supreme Court’s decision in NIFLA is simple. It protects the free speech of those with the viewpoint that women should have many choices other than state-sponsored abortion.”
Becket, another law firm dedicated to defending religious liberty, filed an amicus brief supporting NIFLA’s position. In a summary of the case, Becket attorneys wrote about the case’s importance. “The First Amendment protects speakers from being punished for advancing viewpoints not shared by the government. On issues as divisive as abortion, it is vital that the government not silence one side of the debate….Private organizations, including those with a religious foundation, must be free to operate in the public square according to their beliefs.”
Center for Medical Progress prosecution
The undercover journalism of David Daleiden, Sandra Merritt, and the Center for Medical Progress project revealed the commerce in fetal body parts carried out by some Planned Parenthood affiliates. In California, that led to prosecution – not of Planned Parenthood, but of Daleiden, who has been fighting criminal charges there since 2016.
The prosecutors: first Kamala Harris, then Xavier Becerra. Daleiden is facing multiple felony counts under California’s illegal-taping law. Undercover journalists, take note. Becerra, with taxpayer dollars, keeps the prosecution going even now, as 2020 draws to a close.
The Thomas More Society is representing Daleiden. Its website provides extensive background on the case as it has developed so far, with no apologies for the tone of zealous advocacy.
Becerra’s nomination as HHS Secretary depends on a confirmation vote to be held in the U.S. Senate in 2021. If the Senate were to tie on Becerra’s nomination, the tie-breaking vote would be cast by none other than Kamala Harris.
Post header image: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services headquarters, Hubert H. Humphrey Building, Washington DC. Photo by Carol M. Highsmith, from the Carol M. Highsmith Archive, Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division.
Here’s a report on SB 486 in Seacoast Online includes this quote from a Planned Parenthood spokeswoman regarding the bill to mandate abortion coverage within any health insurance policy that covers maternity care. Public hearing is February 18 in the Senate Commerce Committee, room 100, at the State House in Concord.
“The Reproductive Health Parity Act builds on the progress New Hampshire has made in recent years to ensure that Granite Staters’ insurance covers the health care they need, including abortion care,” said Sabrina Dunlap, vice president of public affairs for Planned Parenthood of Northern New England in New Hampshire. “For those facing an unintended pregnancy, or changed circumstances during a planned pregnancy, access to timely, affordable and respectful abortion care is an essential component of reproductive health care. Passage of SB 486 will continue New Hampshire’s long history of protecting the right for patients to make their own health care decisions.”
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services is issuing two final rules revising the Obamacare contraception mandate, in an effort to relieve those with religious and moral objections from compelled contraceptive insurance coverage. Not a moment too soon, either. Read Wesley J. Smith’s summary of the rules here.
HHS describes the rules:
The first of today’s final rules provides an exemption from the contraceptive coverage mandate to entities that object to services covered by the mandate on the basis of sincerely held religious beliefs. The second final rule provides protections to nonprofit organizations and small businesses that have non-religious moral convictions opposing services covered by the mandate.
The religious and moral exemptions provided by these rules also apply to institutions of education, issuers, and individuals.
The Departments are not extending the moral exemption to publicly traded businesses, or either exemption to government entities.
I’ve written at length about the Obamacare mandate that contraceptives for women be treated as “preventive” health care. The mandate was and is wrong on at least two levels: its assumption that women are broken and need to be fixed, and its attack on the First Amendment rights of employers like the Little Sisters of the Poor and Hobby Lobby who have religious or moral objections to helping provide or procure contraceptives, abortifacient or otherwise, for employees.
The new rules may be as close to a solution as can be achieved, with exemptions to the mandate now much broader than before. But there shouldn’t need to be exemptions, because the mandate shouldn’t exist.
President Trump’s Administration is right to recognize the threat to religious liberty posed by the mandate. But this president is no more likely than the previous one to back away from the public policy that treats women as things that need fixing, as though women’s fertility were a disease.