Ten hours at CPAC

In spite of practical considerations, I’m fond of the annual Conservative Political Action Conference. It’s an expensive indulgence, but I managed a one-day trip this year. Even by my First-in-the-Nation standards, it’s an impressive gathering.

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Never mind the headliners. The best of the presentations are usually to be found in the breakout sessions, and this year was no exception. Marjorie Dannenfelser of the Susan B. Anthony List joined Dr. Charmaine Yoest of Americans United for Life and Darla St. Martin of National Right to Life spoke to a packed room about pro-life victories throughout the country in 2014. As New Hampshire turns ever bluer on the political map (I’m not giving away any secrets here), it’s easy to lose sight of the pro-life political gains elsewhere in other states. Ask Iowa’s Joni Ernst about that.

Chris Crawford and Laurie Lee
Chris Crawford and Laurie Lee

A lower-profile presentation by Chris Crawford and Laurie Lee of Women Speak Out, an SBA List PAC, was a nuts-and-bolts description of the field effort that went into the winning campaigns last year. They called their session “The Margin of Victory.” No theoretical stuff here. How many canvassers, how many live phone calls, how many face-to-face interactions with pro-life voters did it take to yield victories for pro-life candidates? This was independent PAC with an astonishing ground game, independent of any party. They got results with good hard field work: one-on-one contact with voters.

One thing was clear after hearing from candidates and pro-life activists all day: don’t expect the presidential candidates to lead on the life issues. That’s going to be the voters’ job. Most pro-life or fence-sitter candidates will bring up the life issues only if asked – so be prepared to ask. (Pro-abortion candidates seem to have no trouble being upfront about their beliefs, if you can call it “upfront” when they use euphemisms like “pro-choice.”)

All photos by Ellen Kolb for Leaven for the Loaf


The decidedly un-squelched Rep. Groen reflects on Roe

Rep. Warren Groen (photo from warrengroen.blogspot.com)
Rep. Warren Groen (photo from warrengroen.blogspot.com)

On January 22, at the end of the day’s business, Rep. Warren Groen of Rochester stood up in the New Hampshire House of Representatives to address his colleagues under “unanimous consent.” This is a time when legislators traditionally offer eulogies, statements of special recognition, and other remarks not directly related to pending legislation. Such speeches can only be made with the consent of all the members present, which is usually automatic. Knowing that Groen is pro-life and that the 22nd was the anniversary of Roe v. Wade, abortion advocate Rep. Candace Bouchard of Concord stood up to object to Groen’s speech before he started it, thus silencing him and flouting a tradition of House courtesy. Rep. Groen asked once again at the January 29 House session for unanimous consent. He got it. I listened to the livestream of the session as he spoke. He later told me that a number of colleagues chose to leave the room rather than listen to him. Here’s what they missed. I thank Rep. Groen for sending me this text of his prepared remarks.

Madam Speaker, I rise today to share some of the words of Thomas Jefferson, found on the walls of the memorial that bears his name in our nation’s capital.

First, from the Declaration of Independence. “We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights, among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness; that to secure these rights governments are instituted among men.”

Was Jefferson a hypocrite, saying this while owning slaves? That case could be made. But we must also recognize that Jefferson wanted to ban slavery in this newly founded country. However, he and the other founding fathers knew that was a deal breaker and would divide and destroy even the attempt at founding this new nation. Therefore they elected to move forward and deal with slavery later. And deal with it we did, with much blood shed.

What was Jefferson’s response to this delay?

“God who gave us life gave us liberty. Can the liberties of a nation be secure when we have removed a conviction that these liberties are the gift of God? Indeed I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just, that his justice cannot sleep forever. Commerce between master and slave is despotism.”

Proverbs 26:11: “As a dog returns to its vomit, so a fool returns to his folly.” We, having learned that the concept of one person owning another was reprehensible, have returned to our folly. This time it is babies being owned – for destruction.

Today we thank the more than 700 citizens of New Hampshire who braved the cold and snow to mourn the loss of 55 million little unborn citizens, who since January 22, 1973 have been denied their right to “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”

Like Jefferson I tremble for my country when I contemplate that God is a Just God, and because I know that God is a God of Mercy I pray for my country that He will forgive this nation for what we have done. Our justice system is among the best in the world, yet when it comes to the unborn it is poverty-stricken.

Hear the words of Mother Teresa: “Any country that accepts abortion is the poorest of the poor.”

Susan B. Anthony, who knew a thing or two about the suffering of women, said this: “Sweeter even than to have had the joy of children of my own has it been for me to help bring about a better state of things for mothers generally, so that their little ones could not be willed away from them.”

And yet we will them away at the blade of a scalpel at the hand of a doctor sworn to do no harm.

As Mother Teresa said, “It is a poverty to decide that a child must die so that you may live as you wish.”

God have Mercy on our nation, Madam Speaker.

 

 

 

Respect for life goes without saying – or does it? Red State 2013, day 2

After spending two days amid Republicans and conservative independents at Red State Gathering in 2013 in New Orleans, I can report on my reality check. Either everyone there was so pro-life that it didn’t bear mentioning, or else everyone there was so taken with urgent matters like Obamacare and IRS overreach that the right to life is out at the edge of the political radar screen. Take that for what it’s worth. This was not a life-themed event, and one reason I came was to hear what candidates said when they weren’t prompted to make a generic me-too pro-life statement.

Gov. Rick Perry of Texas (photo by Ellen Kolb)
Gov. Rick Perry of Texas (photo by Ellen Kolb)

Halfway through Day 2 at Red State, Texas Governor Rick Perry got his half-hour at the mic. He only took about 15 minutes for his statement, leaving the rest for Q&A. He crammed a lot into those fifteen minutes: a pitch for businesses to come to Texas, a review of the state’s economic growth on his watch, a verbal shot at “an Administration that’s aimless abroad and arrogant at home,” and – oh, happy day – a defense of the right to life. Calling the unborn “our most vulnerable citizens,” he said “We protect life in the state of Texas.” He’s proud of the new law restricting post-20-week abortions and requiring higher safety standards for abortion facilities.

About time, I thought. Once Friday’s opening prayer was out of the way, neither abortion-minded women nor their children made it into the speeches until Governor Perry got up to the podium.

A few candidates from around the country who spoke after Gov. Perry also mentioned the right to life. Watch these names as you browse the news during election season next year: Art Halvorson, candidate for Congress from Pennsylvania; Rob Maness, candidate for Senate from Louisiana (now there’s a red-meat conservative); Greg Brannon, candidate for Senate from North Carolina. They’re all Republicans. Red State means to keep Republicans honest. That’s apparently enough of a job without trying to convert Democrats on the life issues or anything else.

What got the most attention from speakers and attendees alike? The problems with Obamacare, which certainly have pro-life implications … the IRS scandal, not a phony one whatever Jay Carney may be telling me, that leaves me wondering how little I have to do to attract inappropriate attention from a taxing authority … government spending and the next debt ceiling vote … immigration and border security.

All those matters are urgent, to be sure. I worry, though, about how many important matters will be crowded out of political debate because they lack that urgency. Roe has been with us for forty years. Abortion is more or less legal in all 50 states, and every regulation that passes, no matter how minor, brings forth screams from abortion advocates. Even Gosnell’s horrors have already faded from the front pages, replaced by profiles of the woman in pink sneakers who put her abortion advocacy right out there when she tried to filibuster to death Texas’s 20-week bill. Where legal and unrestricted abortion is part of the fabric of the contemporary Democratic party, the issue of abortion is more like white noise within today’s Republican party. Those who want to ignore it, do so.

Imagine pro-life Republicans being attacked, and maybe losing office, because of their stands on the “urgent” stuff. This will be in primaries, mind you. It’s going to happen in 2014 and 2016 without strong pushback from pro-life voters of all political persuasions.

So does being pro-life go without saying among Republicans? No. Do independents care? This one sure does.

Hundreds March for Life in Concord

Not even forty years of Roe v. Wade can discourage or silence us.

Pro-life New Hampshire was out in force today in Concord, with people of all ages coming together to celebrate life and renew their commitment to moving past Roe. My thanks go to the New Hampshire Right to Life Committee for organizing and sponsoring the day’s events. By my count, I was one of 350 people filling the sidewalk on Main Street between the State House and St. John’s church. Many of my longtime friends and colleagues were there. They won’t mind when I say that as much as I love seeing them, I was overjoyed by all the new faces at the march. The pro-life movement is growing all the time. So many young people!  How can I not be full of hope?

Usually, the march goes south on Main Street, passing in front of the Feminist Health Center. This year, we were diverted around the block, for reasons which escape me. A couple of dozen abortion advocates stood near the FHC anyway with their signs and their chants. They had to chant for quite awhile. It took a half hour for the line of pro-lifers to pass a given point, since as always we obeyed the terms of the city permit: stay out of the street, and don’t block the sidewalk. You want 350 people walking two abreast? Works for me. Our message stays out there that much longer.

Who came? Young parents pushing kids in strollers. People in wheelchairs. State reps. Clergy and nuns (and why not, since the Reproductive Rights Caucus leader is so proud to be Catholic?). Church groups. High school & college students.  This is just a hint of what I know I’ll see in Washington in a few days. Enormously encouraging, all of it.

Introduction: “Still Talking About This”

“I can’t believe we’re still talking about this.”
I must have heard those words fifty times in the past year in Concord, spoken by fellow citizens who style themselves “pro-choice” and are truly surprised that pro-lifers are still active.

Still talking about what? About abortion, how it became legal, and how it has grown into a lucrative business for abortion providers; about women facing challenging pregnancies and sometimes facing the aftermath of terminating those pregnancies; about paying for it and subsidizing the industry.  We’re still talking because there is no way to shut down a debate when lives are at stake.

To the great dismay of abortion advocates, New Hampshire legislators in the past year have taken up a number of bills that touch on abortion.  Every session has some abortion debate, but 2011-12 has been remarkable for the sheer volume of life-issue legislation. Most of the bills are consistent with U.S. Supreme Court decisions that are based on Roe. With the exception of two measures to ban late-term abortion and “partial-birth” infanticide, the bills provide mere regulation, long-overdue and badly needed. One bill is simply an attempt to get the state to order abortion providers to report statistics.

New Hampshire currently is the Wild West where abortion law is concerned. Women’s safety and public health policy would seem to call for a degree of regulation and oversight, even if one were to put aside the fact that each abortion takes a human life. Abortion advocates are  loud and angry over each and every one of the bills, however, drawing no distinction among parental notification (enacted over a veto), funding restrictions, statistical reporting, and a late-term ban. To them, it’s all one big attack on Choice, part of a larger effort to set women back.

This is worse than nonsense. What I see being set back are the rights of women and men who choose not to pay even indirectly for the operation of an abortion facility.  I see people lobbying to keep abortion undocumented, so that public health officials will continue to be in the dark about how many New Hampshire women make this “choice” every year. I hear testimony to the need for eugenic abortion, which is a throwback to one of the 20th century’s worst ideas. I hear women who should know better equate a 24-hour waiting period with an outright ban on abortion.

Both in New Hampshire and elsewhere, we need to meet this with more than hand-wringing and the occasional letter to the editor. I offer this blog as a tool and a guide to action for all who share my determination to bring an end to the carnage wrought by Roe. I will undoubtedly use the blog sometimes just to vent. At all times, though, I am mindful that if I do this right, I’ll be reaching people who disagree with me. Persuasion is always possible. Of course, I have no doubt that someone over on the other side is working to persuade me right back. Fair enough.

I write as a woman who came of age in the years shortly after Roe v. Wade. When I was in high school and a dear friend “had” to have an abortion, I chipped in with some friends for the $250 cost. I found the idea of abortion regrettable & uncomfortable, but it was after all my friend’s body & my friend’s choice. Over the following five years, many experiences combined to leave me incapable of denying the humanity of the child in uteroThe dignity of both mother and child are absolute, regardless of what any court may decide.

Just as the state rep who heads the Reproductive Rights Caucus is careful to mention that she’s Catholic, I should be candid about my religious background. While raised Catholic, I spent most of my adolescence shrugging off religion. Later, it wasn’t being Catholic that made me pro-life. It was recognizing the miracle of life that brought me back to professing the Catholic faith. This has been significant in more ways than I could have imagined when I was a young woman.

As for politics, I call myself a recovering Republican. I fall off the wagon now and then, but I am a registered “undeclared” voter, in New Hampshire parlance. The rest of the world knows me as “independent.” It is true that nearly every candidate I support runs as a Republican. It is also true that GOP leaders tend to take pro-life voters for granted. By not signing up with the party, I can help whatever candidates I choose, and the party need not get annoyed with me for failing to back every candidate on the ticket.

So yes, we’re still talking about this. Pro-lifers cannot be effective if they stay huddled together. I propose that we step out in faith and leaven the loaf of public discourse. Let’s begin.