N.H. Abortion Law: Even the Pros are Astounded

Just when I think I’m beyond surprise, this happens.

A reader of this blog who was taken aback at my post about New Hampshire’s lack of abortion regulation decided to write an op-ed column on the topic for her local newspaper. That’s usually a routine process for her. She’s active in her community, and she knows the editor. This time, the editor got back to her and asked for documentation.

In particular, he sought documentation of this fact: New Hampshire allows abortion on demand through all nine months of pregnancy. “Do you have the RSA so I can link the law? There should be a state law that allows…late term abortions.”

That question came from a professional journalist working in New Hampshire.

I checked his profile on LinkedIn. He has worked in this area for many years. He was around when Jeanne Shaheen signed repeal of New Hampshire’s abortion laws. He was in college when Roe v. Wade was handed down. He is a prizewinning editor. He’s a pro.

And he has no idea that late-term abortions are the default setting in the United States. Unless a state has a law placing a time limit on abortion, there is no limit. He also apparently doesn’t know that New Hampshire legislators have repeatedly refused to impose a limit, most recently last year.

The op-ed writer can’t show a New Hampshire law “allowing” late-term abortions because there isn’t one. None is needed in order for unlimited abortion to be legal. Roe v. Wade permits states to assert an interest in protecting the preborn child at the point of viability, but it does not require states to do so.

New Hampshire lawmakers have chosen not to assert that interest.

Whether the reader’s op-ed makes it into print is between her and the editor. I hope it gets published. The editor’s initial reluctance to move ahead with it isn’t a matter of pro-abortion bias.

He honestly can’t believe our state’s situation – not yet, anyway. New Hampshire law allows abortion throughout pregnancy, because New Hampshire law imposes no time limit.

If you think that goes without saying, think again.

Update: within a few days of the initial submission of the op-ed, the editor chose to print it.

On Pain, Viability, and Votes

On the agenda this week: two bills addressing mid- and late-term abortions. One bill is federal, and it fell short on a procedural vote in the U.S. Senate. The other bill is getting its hearing this week (January 31, 10:00 a.m.) before a New Hampshire House committee, a year after a similar bill was tabled in the House.

The opposition by abortion advocates is predictable, as is the split among pro-lifers.

Federal: the “Pain-Capable” Bill

The U.S. Senate failed this week to advance a so-called “Pain-Capable” bill, which would have limited abortions after the fifth month of pregnancy, the point at which preborn children can feel pain. As if the very title of the bill weren’t enough to calm fears that it might actually confer personhood on anyone (it was written to be merely a limitation on abortion), the bill contained exceptions for children conceived through rape and incest.

The point of those exceptions is anyone’s guess. They provided no tactical advantage of which I’m aware, and they infuriated rape survivors and their children.

We were treated to the disedifying spectacle of the Democratic Senate leader high-fiving a colleague after the vote. They weren’t celebrating the defeat of an exceptions bill. Way to go, guys. Team Gosnell prevails again.

Here are two different views of the Pain-Capable Bill, offered by women whose experiences give them a perspective that I’m sure most Senators lack. These are taken from public posts on social media.

Darlene Pawlik at TheDarlingPrincess.com, “The Law is a Teacher” (excerpt):

This bill teaches that children over 20 weeks gestation deserve protection from the horrific pain of having arms and legs torn off or their heads and chests crushed at the hands of abortionists. It further teaches that, a similar child who’s unfortunate enough to be the second victim of rape does not deserve to be protected form that same excruciating death.

…It is very important to note that perhaps, the one person, the mom, who could redeem the situation would be left with the guilt of committing an atrocity against another innocent victim. This could set her up for post traumatic stress responses for the rest of her life.

…I was not only conceived by a violent rape, but my first child was born as a result of sex trafficking. I am the target of this kind of legislation….

Of course, I’ll ask you to remove the exceptions. These exceptions undermine to premise of the bill. They are discriminatory and unjust. No child should receive the death sentence for the crime of their father.

Catherine Adair on Facebook:

I find it really hard to talk about the defeat of the 20-week abortion bill by Senate Democrats. Every time I think about it, I am right back in the abortion clinic, staring at a jar filled with the severed arms and legs of a baby who just moments before had been ripped apart in [its] mother’s womb. I am right back to that place where I told mothers that the doctor was going to “gently extract the contents of the uterus.” Women in their 23rd week of pregnancy were lied to and told it was a simple “procedure.”

Nobody told them that they and their baby would be in agony as the doctor used forceps and sharp instruments to dismember their child, pulling and tugging until the baby was ripped apart and he could pull the body out, piece by piece.

…To see Senate Democrats high-fiving each other on the Senate floor truly left me sickened….What kind of a society allows such barbaric killing? What kind of a society allows late-term abortion to be used as a way to generate profits for a body parts selling industry? Have people lost all sense of their humanity?

Even writing this I can smell the sick, horrifying smell of the abortion procedure room. It is something that will never leave me. I want to run and hide and pretend like this barbarism isn’t happening. I truly can’t bear the horror. But I have to say something, if only in memory of the thousands of babies whose blood I have on my hands.

Dear God, I implore you to awaken those who are blind, those who helped to defeat this bill, and those who voted against it. Please open their eyes. Please give them back their humanity. Please have mercy on us.

In New Hampshire: the Viable Fetus Protection Act

Rep. Keith Murphy (R-Bedford) is leading a team of sponsors on HB 1680, to restrict abortions after viability. Restrict, not ban: it has exceptions (though none for rape and incest). Far from undermining Roe, it is consistent with Roe’s holding that the state may assert an interest in prenatal life in the latter stages of pregnancy. New Hampshire is a place of abortion extremism, where unregulated providers can do the deed anytime until the preborn child comes to term. HB 1680 is an attempt to change that, in a modest way.

The bill does not pretend to push against any constitutional limits. It doesn’t pretend to be about personhood. It is a straightforward bid “to assert a compelling state interest in protecting the lives of viable unborn fetuses.” It even leaves the determination of viability to the “treating physician,” meaning the abortion provider.

I support the bill as a step toward loosening the grip of abortion absolutists on my state’s public policy, just as I supported Murphy’s HB 578 last year.

New Hampshire Right to Life takes a different view.

This bill prohibits post-viability abortions (which NHRTL supports) but it also includes exceptions for the [unrestrained] health of the mother; for Twin To Twin Transfer (TTS) syndrome; and for Fetal anomalies incompatible with life. NHRTL cannot support enacting law that explicitly excludes any class of humans from legal protection. [brackets and parentheses in original]

I’m going to go out on a limb here and speculate that if – if – HB 1680 is defeated or derailed, abortion advocates will be high-fiving in Reps Hall just as they did in the U.S. Capitol the other day. And once again, they won’t be high-fiving over the defeat of “exceptions.”

 

Norma McCorvey, R.I.P.

A few days ago, Abby Johnson on her Facebook page called for prayers for Norma McCorvey, who was very ill. I am now hearing that McCorvey has died at age 69, having lived for 44 years in the shadow of Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court decision that bore her pseudonym.

McCorvey went public, affirming her real identity and refusing to embrace being “Jane Roe.” Eventually, in the midst of a tumultuous life, she repudiated the Court decision and became pro-life.

Embed from Getty Images

On a visit to Texas last year, I went to Mass at a small chapel  in downtown Dallas. The pastor turned out to be the man who had ministered to McCorvey when she professed the Catholic faith. Rather than talk about her, he demurred: “Leave her alone. She’s been too much used.”

Too much used. The attorneys who represented her in Roe can take some credit for that. For the briefest of overviews about McCorvey and the court case that thrust her into American history, read Live Action’s post from earlier this year, 7 Things You Didn’t Know About Jane Roe of Roe v. Wade.

I think of her as one of the voices to trust whenever I hear an abortion advocate say “trust women.”

“I realized that my case, which legalized abortion on demand, was the biggest mistake of my life….but now I’m dedicated to spreading the truth about preserving the dignity of all human life from natural conception to natural death.”

“[I]t doesn’t make any difference what religion you are, or how young you are or how old you are, I think if they get up and go to these abortion mills, and stand there – and they don’t have to do anything, they can just stand there and pray, I think that would make a lot of difference. We have to be seen in numbers.”

May she rest in peace.

 

Their trip was snowed out – so these students marched for life at home

“The truth doesn’t stop being the truth just because it’s hidden.” —Fr. Paul Soper

The Archdiocese of Boston cancelled its buses to the March for Life in Washington, D.C. , bowing to the weather forecast. More than four hundred students who had planned to be marching to the U.S. Supreme Court with fellow pro-lifers found themselves spending January 22 at home.

Instead of shrugging and saying “oh, well…”, these students along with workers for the Archdiocese brought their March for Life to Boston. Here’s the three-minute video they made, showing how they turned a cancelled trip into an enthusiastic and peaceful Boston witness for life.


 

Ahead of the storm, March for Life 2016 went on

Are we out of our minds? I’m sure I wasn’t the only person on the National Mall with that thought as thousands of pro-lifers began to assemble for the March for Life last week. A blizzard warning was in effect. Not a watch, mind you – a warning, meaning it’s no doubt coming. The leaden-gray sky promised to deliver Winter Storm Jonas with a vengeance.

In front of the Supreme Court at March for Life 2016. Photo by Ellen Kolb.
In front of the Supreme Court at March for Life 2016. Photo by Ellen Kolb.

I traveled with about 250 other New Hampshire pilgrims – I use the word intentionally; we were united in our religious faith – in a six-bus caravan to the 42nd annual March for Life, coming on the 43rd anniversary of Roe v. Wade.  Our particular group was associated with various parishes within the Diocese of Manchester. If you were passed on the Everett Turnpike the day before the March by a busload of rosary-praying Catholics, that was us.

My bus captain was Valerie Somers, who has been involved with bus trips to the March for more than 20 years. She was as close to unflappable as anyone could be with the word “blizzard” floating around. Our driver Ray (or ace driver Ray, as I will henceforth think of him) has been driving New Hampshire pro-lifers to the March annually for almost as long as Valerie’s been involved.

Photo by Jeffrey Bruno/Aleteia.com via The March for Life Facebook page
The March for Life, January 22, 2016. Photo by Jeffrey Bruno/Aleteia.com via The March for Life Facebook page.

“I do this for you. I believe in what you’re doing,” Ray told us. He probably could have accepted another charter that day that would have kept him safely out of the path of Storm Jonas. He drove to the March for Life instead.

The March is nonsectarian, nondenominational, and as open to secular as to religious participation, as I have noted before. This year, I traveled with fellow Catholics, and our time together was heavily informed by our common faith.  My notes here reflect that.

The March’s biggest story came after the March

I didn’t know when we set out that the most remarkable part of the March would come after it was over. As we were returning to New Hampshire, marchers heading home to other states were stranded in blizzard conditions. The response of some of the Catholic students and clergy to being stuck in the snow led to more reporting about the March than I’ve ever seen.

I mention this before recounting my own experiences at this year’s event, because what happened among the stranded marchers was more important than anything I did on the 22nd.

Snow began falling in Washington as the March began at 1 p.m. on the 22nd. By 4 p.m., our New Hampshire contingent had made it back to our buses, and we began creeping up the highway in slick, snowy conditions. Our route let us outrun the storm. Anyone traveling south or west or northwest of D.C. wasn’t so lucky.

On the Pennsylvania Turnpike, a vehicle collision caused a giant traffic backup that eventually became a standstill, in heavy snow. Among the stranded travelers were students from Franciscan University of Steubenville (Ohio), University of Mary (North Dakota), and several Iowa Catholic high schools, among others returning from the March. Their plight came to my attention via the Twitter feed of writer Kathryn Jean Lopez (@kathrynlopez), who was traveling with the North Dakota group.

Others on the scene took to social media, but none to my knowledge have anything like the following enjoyed by Lopez. She’s the one who drew attention to what was happening.

News organizations began paying attention to what was going on, mentioning that some of the stranded travelers were returning from the March for Life. There was more mention of the March for Life on the 23rd than on the 22nd, when it actually took place. (See links at marchforlife.org to some of the coverage.)

So now we know how to maximize coverage of the biggest pro-life gathering in the nation: get stuck in the snow on the way home.  If the same news agencies do follow-up stories, they’ll be able to feature what these students do back home to promote and defend the right to life.

The Catholic students and their fellow pro-life pilgrims were stuck on the turnpike for more than 20 hours. The Catholic community of snowbound travelers redeemed the time. They organized an impromptu roadside Mass that was attended by students and chaperones and any other travelers, regardless of faith, who chose to brave the cold.

That’s when things really went viral. Catholics being pro-life is a dog-bites-man story. Young Catholics giving public witness to their beliefs and keeping their sense of humor about it shifts the story to man-bites-dog territory.

Deacon Greg Kandra at aleteia.com later snagged an interview with the principal celebrant of the roadside Mass, Fr. Patrick Behm of Iowa, who said,  “[C]redit for the idea, and credit for building the altar, and credit for going around to the various buses inviting people to join them belongs completely to the pilgrims from the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis, particularly Mr. Bill Dill, their youth minister.”

The turnpike was eventually re-opened. Everyone in the traffic jam made it home safely, as far as I know.

Getting to hearings, witnessing outside an abortion facility, raising money to grow a pregnancy help center, providing respite care, visiting the sick: inconvenient? Hard? Not my thing? Those students on the Pennsylvania Turnpike have just shown us all what inconvenience looks like, and they’ve shown me how to meet it.

Thanks to them, the smallest March for Life crowd I’ve ever seen has had the greatest impact on media. Who saw that coming?

Still the nation’s largest pro-life event

While there are now annual pro-life marches in Chicago and San Francisco near the anniversary of Roe v. Wade, the Washington event is the March for Life. It’s not regional.

The weather forecast kept attendance down, but “down” is relative. In other years at the March, I’ve been in the midst of hundreds of thousands of people, when just getting off the Mall to start marching can take over an hour. No such delay this year, although the crowd was still impressive. Look at this panoramic photo from LifeSiteNews.com, taken at this year’s event.

As our bus left Nashua southbound, my fellow passengers and I exchanged news reports about cancelled buses. I heard about night-before panicky texts and phone calls among New Hampshire’s trip organizers. Larger groups, such as the Archdiocese of Boston, cancelled their buses. I knew this was going to be a down year in terms of numbers.

More than fifty students from Northeast Catholic College (Warner, NH) made it down to D.C., though, as did students from Thomas More College of Liberal Arts (Merrimack, NH). Our caravan included people from Nashua and Woodsville and Rochester and many points in between. There’s no telling how many Granite Staters went to the March on their own or in groups unrelated to the Diocese.

I knew only a few of my fellow passengers before we started out. It was great to meet and talk with new acquaintances. While this is the first year I’ve been to the March with a diocesan group, it was obvious that many of my companions had traveled together before.

Rally before the March

Sister Esther Marie of Rochester, NH, sporting one of the polka-dot hats our group used to make it easy to find each other in the crowd.
Sister Esther Marie of Rochester, NH, sporting one of the polka-dot hats our group used to make it easy to find each other in the crowd.

The morning of the 22nd, I looked uneasily at my watch as the pre-March rally kept going on and on. Free unsolicited advice to the March organizers: when the National Weather Service says “blizzard warning,” it’s time to shake up the schedule: less talking, more marching.

But where to cut? Would I have wanted Jewels Green to get the hook? No, no, no. Would I have cut Carly Fiorina, the only presidential candidate to speak? Nope. And I sure wouldn’t have wanted to miss Sue Ellen Browder, for whom I cheered as she said, “Prolife pro-family feminism is the authentic women’s movement of the twenty-first century.” (That’s from a formerly pro-abortion writer. Note to self: find her new book, Subverted.)

Of course, the rally is the time to look around the National Mall and check out the banners held by other marchers: Secular Pro-Life. Lutherans for Life. Churches from too many states to list. New Wave Feminists. Students for Life. And Then There Were None. Plenty more, reflecting the breadth of the pro-life movement.

At the rally, MRL '16. Photo by Ellen Kolb.
At the rally, MRL ’16. Photo by Ellen Kolb.

Enjoy this: 15 Epic Signs from the March for Life (churchpop.com)

Also worth checking out, from NewBostonPost: “‘Pro-life, pro-women’: #MarchforLife hits D.C.” (Storify post, aggregating photos, tweets and social media posts from several sources)

The Expo

This was the first year I actually had time to visit the expo associated with the March, held at a local conference center. Unfortunately, some exhibitors took down  their displays early in a rush to get out of town ahead of the blizzard. It was worth the walk anyway, especially in the company of three other Granite Staters who were likewise seeing the expo for the first time.

MFL Expo display from Stand True Pro-Life Outreach. Photo by Ellen Kolb.
MFL Expo display from Stand True Pro-Life Outreach. Photo by Ellen Kolb.

I brought a bag with me, knowing I’d probably pick up books and pamphlets and what-have-you. By the time I was done, I had enough reading material for a week (and I probably have the makings of a post or two in there somewhere.)

My favorite discovery was the information table for Brazil 4 Life International, staffed by the mother-daughter team of Ina Silva-Sobolewski and her daughter Rebecca Sobolewski. Ina spoke about the crisis pregnancy centers she has worked to establish in Brazil, where abortion is illegal but also not uncommon.

Ina and Rebecca Sobolewski of Brazil4Life International. Photo by Ellen Kolb.
Ina and Rebecca Sobolewski of Brazil4Life International. Photo by Ellen Kolb.

Vigil Mass at National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception

At the Shrine: Our Lady of Guadalupe, patroness of the unborn and of the Americas.
At the Shrine: Our Lady of Guadalupe, patroness of the unborn and of the Americas.

By longstanding tradition, there’s a Mass the night before the March at the Basilica of the Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in northeast Washington, D.C. All are welcome, but it’s primarily a youth Mass – and it’s packed, every single year.

This is one event on which the forecast had no effect. It’s been years since I attended one of these vigils, and I was bowled over then and now by the turnout.

The basilica has one of the most beautiful interiors I’ve ever seen in a church or indeed in any public building. It’s worth a visit for that alone, with or without a Mass.

Back to work

No kidding here: I hate traveling when words like “blizzard warning” are flashing on highway signs. I wouldn’t have ventured anywhere near the March for Life this year without the aid of an experienced professional driver. I almost bailed out anyway.

And would that have mattered? In the greater scheme of things, no. Pro-life work is fundamentally local, one-on-one, built on relationships and not on rallies.

But oh, what I would have missed had I done the prudent thing and stayed home! Local, one-on-one work can too easily devolve into a siege mentality: I’m all alone hereI’m not getting anywhere. Nothing ever changes. What I do makes no difference. 

There’s solidarity and strength in meeting other people with the same commitment to the value of human life. There’s refreshment and inspiration in finding myself in a sea of pro-life people a generation younger than I. It’s good to hear from other people about what they’ve done in their own areas, learning what has worked and what hasn’t.  I learn new things from listening to people whose background and beliefs are different from mine in every respect except being pro-life.

And then there’s the reason Nellie Gray founded the March in the first place, back in 1974: to put the Supreme Court and the Washington politicians and the news media on notice that Roe v. Wade settled nothing.

I’ll be back. An annual trip to the March for Life is financially out of reach for me. An occasional trip is essential. It really is a pilgrimage. We said a prayer to that effect on the bus, with a simple antiphon: whatever happenshelp me remember that I’m a pilgrim, not a tourist.