Weekend reading: Pick of the Web, 1/17/14

Coming next week: introducing the Leaven newsletter

Pick of the Web is moving from the blog to the new Leaven for the Loaf newsletter, premiering next Friday. All new blog subscribers will receive it automatically. You can also subscribe to the newsletter via this link. No time to read daily posts? The newsletter will put links to all the week’s posts together for you in one email, along with Pick of the Web and photos from events of pro-life interest – with a strong New Hampshire flavor, as always.

Lots to share this week:

hundreds strong at the 2013 March for Life in Concord
hundreds strong at the 2013 March for Life in Concord

Your absolutely positively last reminder of NH’s march for life

Saturday, January 18 (mere hours away as I write this), the State House in Concord is the place to be at 11:45 as all people of good will are invited to New Hampshire’s march for life. The march goes from the State House south on Main Street, passing near the Feminist Health Center, ending at St. John the Evangelist Church’s parish hall. A program begins at 1 p.m. at the hall, featuring Jeanneane Maxon of Americans United for Life. More info at www.nhrtl.org.

If you come to the march, I hope I’ll meet you. I’ll be at the Cornerstone table at the program after the march. (My work on this blog is a separate effort from my work for Cornerstone, and that organization is in no way responsible for anything I write or cite on Leaven.)

D.C. Marchers, please share your photos

I’ll miss the national March for Life in Washington, D.C. next Wednesday. I’ll be happy to post photos from New Hampshire folks who attend. If you want your work featured in a Leaven post, email me your best photos or a link to them: ellen@leavenfortheloaf.com.

Memo from Rolling Stone: Look out, world, here come the pro-lifers

In “The Stealth War On Abortion” [link broken as of June 2016], Rolling Stone magazine gives a backhanded compliment to Americans United for Life as one of the groups “eviscerating abortion rights” nationwide. Well, sure, if you consider informed consent to be an evisceration, and if you forget that laws are passed by legislatures. AUL’s work is invaluable in terms of constitutionally-sound language for pro-life measures.

Speaking of AUL …

Americans United for Life has issued its 2014 “Life List,” ranking the states in terms of how well women and children are protected from the abortion industry. Check the link here.

From the Can’t Make This Up Dept.: The Art of Suing To Silence

h/t SBA List: In the New York Post, William McGurk’s “Who Decides if a Political Ad is a Lie?” reports that the Supreme Court has just accepted a case involving an ex-Congressman and a pro-life PAC. In 2010, the Susan B. Anthony List argued that a vote for Obamacare was a vote for abortion. They ran ads against one Steve Driehaus for supporting the president’s health care law, saying that Driehaus “voted for taxpayer funded abortion.” Driehaus, an incumbent Congressman, lost the election. He then sued SBA List for “depriving him of his livelihood.”

Farewell to a pro-life leader

U.S. Senator Tom Coburn (R-Oklahoma) is retiring from the Senate at the end of this year, two years before the end of his term. Best known as a government-waste watchdog, he is also a physician who has spoken up countless times on the Senate floor in defense of the right to life. Count him as one of the good guys. Fox News reports on his retirement.

New Hampshire statistics bill gets a hearing

I’ll have a post dedicated to this up on the blog this weekend, but the short story is that HB 1502 had its first hearing before the House Health, Human Services and Elderly Affairs committee yesterday. Questions for the sponsor from committee members quickly revealed that the prospect of gathering objective data scares the living daylights out of some people. I was there for the festivities and will let you know what I heard. For a preview, check this Facebook post I made yesterday.

NH Death Penalty repeal gets a hearing

Also yesterday came the initial hearing on HB 1170, a bill to repeal New Hampshire’s death penalty. I know this is a painful matter that divides many people of good will. The most compelling story I have ever read about a New Hampshire resident who changed his mind about the death penalty comes from John Breckinridge, former police partner of murdered Manchester police officer Michael Briggs.

I note that Rep. Kathleen Souza (R-Manchester) testified yesterday in favor of repeal. Her pro-life credentials are impeccable. We’ve labored in the same vineyard for years. Even after earning the confidence of ward 4 voters for several elections now, she is always ill-at-ease when she testifies. She spoke up yesterday, though, and I give her enormous credit for that. She had to stand up in opposition to some people who are her allies in other battles.

40 Days for Life is back; Greenland NH coordinator needed. Apply  by 1/29.

40DFL in Greenland NH. Jackie McCoy photo.
40DFL in Greenland NH. Jackie McCoy photo.

I got an email this week from Jackie McCoy, who has done wonderful work leading the 40 Days for Life campaigns outside the Feminist Health Center in Greenland. She’s stepping down. Might this be a job for you? Read what she says, and email me (ellen@leavenfortheloaf.com) if you’d like to help. I’ll put you in touch with Jackie. Here’s her message.

“Happy New Year pro life friends!
Applications to lead a Spring 40 Days for Life Campaign are now open. However this year, after some discernment, I have decided to step down from my role as coordinator/campaign director. This means I will not be sending in the application to hold a Greenland campaign.
If any of you, or someone you know, is interested in taking on the role of campaign director, I am very willing to explain what is involved and to discuss what resources we have available to pay the $197 application fee and other costs associated with running a campaign. The application period is open until midnight, January 29. The actual campaign runs from March 5 – April 13.
Given the latest NH senate bill (bill 319-FN) that is trying to establish a statewide 25 foot buffer zone outside all NH reproductive health care facilities, we may soon lose the right to pray on the sidewalk outside the Greenland abortion facility. Lets pray that doesn’t happen and contact our local representatives to express how we feel about that!
In the meantime, if there is no official Greenland, Spring 40 Days for Life campaign, I would hope that you will still take an hour a week to pray outside the abortion center during the 40 days. I have signs that you can borrow (abortion hurts women/men, etc).”


Postscript to Albuquerque vote, from key backer of late-term abortion ban

Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of the Susan B. Anthony List, issued a statement this morning following yesterday’s loss of a citizen-led initiative to stop late-term abortions from being performed in Albuquerque, NM.

Months ago, most Albuquerque residents had no idea their city had become a national hub for late abortion. Local pro-life activists took action to educate their neighbors and ended up gathering 27,000 signatures – more than twice the amount necessary – for a city ballot initiative to stop late abortion,” said SBA List President Marjorie Dannenfelser. “Planned Parenthood and other national pro-abortion groups, including Organizing for America, saw this spontaneous grassroots effort as a mortal threat and spent $1 million to defeat it.

Despite being outspent four to one, pro-life grassroots activists were able to educate thousands of citizens about fetal pain and the reality of late abortion. This was no small feat in a deep blue city that chose Barack Obama over Mitt Romney by a 15-point margin.

(Emphasis added.)

Full press release is here.

As a campaign veteran myself, I see strong confirmation in yesterday’s results of a fact that I would dearly love to toss aside whenever the life issues are in play: successful campaigns require adequate funding. “Adequate” means enough for the right kind of media buys and for just the right-size dedicated staff to work full-time at the task at hand.

Budget for next year’s campaigns the same way you budget for charity. That’s what it comes to, really; campaigns are another way of making the community better.


Pro-life voters, make your case: a talk with Marilyn Musgrave

Marilyn Musgrave of the Susan B. Anthony List (Shannon McGinley photo)
Marilyn Musgrave of the Susan B. Anthony List (Shannon McGinley photo)

No, this isn’t a rerun of my first post-election blog entry from last November. It turns out I am not the only one who sees that successful pro-life candidates are not the ones who chant “jobs-and-the-economy” while letting pro-abort challengers go on the attack.

Meeting up with a pro-life colleague

I chatted a couple of days ago with former three-term congresswoman Marilyn Musgrave (R-Colorado). She’s now Vice-President of Government Affairs for the Susan B. Anthony List, the nation’s premier organization dedicated to electing pro-life women to office. I met her a couple of years ago when she visited New Hampshire to back up those of us who had issues with Planned Parenthood getting state money. She’s warm, savvy, and absolutely committed to supporting more pro-life state-level candidates. It’s always a treat to talk with her.

Marilyn was in New Hampshire last weekend to speak at a conference sponsored by Citizens for a Strong New Hampshire. Most of the people in the room, while attentive to the pro-life message, were not familiar with Marilyn or the SBA List. They are now.

“Let’s put them on record” regarding late-term abortion

Fight back: I asked her what people like us in New Hampshire could do, with three out of four of our federal representatives adamantly pro-abortion. “We have to fight back on the phony war-on-women. You have to fight back. First you have to decide that you’re going to fight back.”

Bingo. That was the first thing I wrote about after four-months of employment-imposed exile from blogging last year. That’s not to say I-told-you-so, but it’s good to hear confirmation from a woman in the thick of things.

“Winning issue”: As she said in her conference speech and repeated to me later, pro-life voters have a powerful new argument in favor of abortion regulation: Kermit Gosnell. The carnage left in Gosnell’s late-term abortion facility was documented by a grand jury whose findings helped bring Gosnell to justice. “Late-term abortion [restriction] is winning ground. Gosnell was not an outlier.” She noted polling that shows opposition to late-term abortion is strong, cutting across lines of age and race.

“Put them on record”: As for abortion advocates like Mmes. Shaheen, Shea-Porter, and Kuster, Marilyn suggests holding their feet to the fire regarding abortions after the fifth month of pregnancy. “Let’s put them on record. Gosnell gives us that opportunity.”

I asked her about the Virginia race for governor, certainly the toughest race going on right now between a pro-abortion candidate and a pro-lifer. “A tough go,” she said candidly. She told me about the Women for Ken effort in Virginia, operating independently of candidate and party in order to attack the war-on-women narrative that’s being used yet again.

Now what?

The following remarks are mine, not Marilyn’s. Don’t blame her for my conclusions.

Frankly, I DO expect New Hampshire Democrats to go on record regarding late-term abortions, with something like “trust women” in lieu of “we’re fine with dismembering and abandoning post-20-week babies.” (Even the Dems know some lines just won’t sell.) The Republican party – and remember that I’m speaking as a GOP-leaning indie – has yet to show it has enough starch in its institutional spine to pick up this fight. (Do I hear someone whispering “don’t be divisive” …?)

Individual voters will be the ones to ask candidates about late-term abortion. Ask them about regulation, about what they know about Kermit Gosnell, about what they think of New Hampshire’s failure to keep track of how many late-term abortions are done here. If you really want to have some fun with a values-clarification exercise, ask your local GOP committee members the same questions.

Certainly ask about late-term abortion before you write another check to a candidate or a party.

As for shredding the war-on-women arguments, there’s nothing quite like an articulate pro-life woman to lead the way. New Hampshire has many, as it happens, and I’ll continue to write about them. I see that when SBA List launched its National Pro-Life Women’s Caucus this year, made up of state-level legislators from all over the country, three New Hampshire state representatives were in the inaugural group: Jane Cormier, Jeanine Notter, and Lenette Peterson.

That caucus, by the way, was organized by a woman who herself spent time as a state rep before heading to Washington: Marilyn Musgrave.

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Reproductive rights an “economic” issue? NH visitor says Yes

The president of a political action committee dedicated to the election of “pro-choice” female candidates was in New Hampshire last week. Stephanie Schriock of EMILY’s List presided at a town-hall-style event organized to promote a female candidate for president in 2016.

Reporter Pat Grossmith of the New Hampshire Sunday News of 9/29/13 reported,”As for reproductive rights, [Schriock] said it was a economic issue, not a social issue, along with minimum wage, equal pay and child care.” I’ve heard this before. I call it the Make Life Perfect First argument: start by making everything else in life perfect, and then it will follow that women won’t have abortions.

Not that easy

It’s not that easy. It’s nearly impossible to calculate the the amount of money that’s been spent on the state and federal levels in the past few decades on the welfare of women and children. Still, hundreds of thousands of abortions are committed annually in the U.S. – over a million in some years, according to the shaky data that’s available.

The foundation of pro-life belief and action is the unshakable understanding that the right to life is inherent from the first moment of prenatal life. It doesn’t depend on any external factor like the mother’s feelings or the local WIC allotment. That understanding is free. Its implications are profoundly at variance with the Make Life Perfect philosophy.

Reproductive rights means abortion on demand (and without apology, according to its most ardent partisans).  That’s the most deadly civil rights challenge of the last 40 years. When rights are dependent on how much one is wanted, injustice prevails, no matter what any judge says.

Money and language

EMILY’s List through the years has raised more than a quarter-billion dollars to help elect pro-abortion women. That’s billion with a B. I’m sure Schriock felt very much at home as she visited a state with a pro-abortion governor, two pro-abortion members of Congress, and a pro-abortion U.S. Senator – all women.

And yet when questioned by the Sunday News reporter, Schriock wouldn’t use the word abortion. In a political discussion, “rights” sells; “abortion,” not so much anymore. That’s telling. The public is shrinking from abortion, as shown by the passage of so many state-level pro-life laws in the past few years. Yet abortion advocates still win elections.

The only way to do that is to use euphemisms and distractions. EMILY’s List and organizations that share its goal have been very good at that. It’s hard to argue in favor of abortion up until birth, if the focus is on the preborn child and on the well-being of the mother. Shift the terms to “choice,” war-on-women and “reproductive rights,” and combine that with political opponents who prefer silence to making the pro-life case, and pro-abortion candidates gain an edge. I’m not giving away any secrets.

To EMILY’s List, then, a key is to introduce economics to the discussion. They’re out for big game: a female pro-abortion president. Schriock noted at her New Hampshire stop that Hillary Clinton isn’t the only possibility. She reeled off a half dozen other names as well, including Kathleen Sebelius, Health and Human Services secretary. Yes, the HHS mandate queen looks like presidential timber to that outfit.

Pro-life alternatives

It’s up to individual candidates and individual donors to pick up the gauntlet. The Susan B. Anthony List‘s PAC is the sole nationwide political action committee dedicated to identifying and electing pro-life candidates. “Advancing, mobilizing and representing pro-life women” is the SBA List mission. They’ll help pro-life women who are running for office, but they don’t neglect pro-life men. I know state-level PACs can operate as well. Keep an eye out for them.

If you’re telling yourself that politics shouldn’t be about money, you’re half right. Politics is about policy. Getting elected to influence policy does cost money. Try traveling around your state without it, or buying ads, or bringing together a team dedicated full-time to helping in the effort.

Think about the quarter of a billion dollars that EMILY’s List has spent. Where’s the pro-life equivalent? SBA List is willing to go the distance, with sufficient support from pro-life donors.

That’s where economics comes in. Keep the dollar signs off the babies.

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In which I encounter new faces & old friends: CPAC 2013, day 2

National Harbor, MD

evening: Anyone who has worked as a campaign staffer knows how it feels the day after the election when everyone’s suddenly unemployed. It’s good to see co-workers find good jobs post-election. I ran into one of those good guys today at CPAC. Tommy Schultz, NH communications director for Romney/Ryan, is now with JDA Frontline nearby in DC.

Twitter is useful here for more than just posting reactions to speeches. I know some New Hampshire folks are nearby because we keep swapping tweets. I haven’t seen them, though, in the sea of people. Folks are here from all over the country. My lunch companions today were Don Irvine of Accuracy in Media and six college students from three states: Colorado, Minnesota, Ohio. Five states represented at one table is not that unusual here.

The programs so far, and the main speakers, have made clear to me that the life issues definitely have a place on the conservative menu, but there is reluctance to make them the main course. I’ve seen that for years. One reason I came here was to check my New Hampshire observations against what’s happening nationwide.

The challenge, and the good news, is this: forget about the GOP or a “conservative movement” leading the way on the right to life. They can’t & they shouldn’t & they don’t want to. Rank & file activists will do the pro-life work and force refinement of the message. Yes, there are charismatic politicians like Rubio who are proudly pro-life. Others are skittish or are openly pro-Roe, no matter what the party platform says. Fine. Let them take their cues from us, not the other way around.

Dick Morris, consultant/commentator/pundit, had ten minutes of mic time yesterday all to himself, and he posited that the GOP chased away single white women with its views on abortion. (Of course he prefaced that by saying we shouldn’t abandon our pro-life views.) Excuse me; did anyone hear the GOP pressing the issue? I sure didn’t, and I was in the thick of things. The GOP let the Dems craft the message. Morris and I can agree at least on that: messaging is crucial and we need to work on it.

Marjorie Dannenfelser of the Susan B. Anthony List, a PAC dedicated to electing pro-life women, was part of a panel today about the 40th anniversary of Roe v. Wade. She called Morris out, and I wish he’d been there to hear it. She called last year’s GOP refusal to engage the Dems on the life issues “unilateral disarmament.” She warned that Republicans are doomed to fail if that’s done in the next election cycle. “We are poised to emulate the success of other human rights movements, but we need a champion.”

Dannenfelser was joined on her panel by Congressman Randy Forbes of Virginia, Congresswoman Ann Wagner of Missouri, and Tim Goeglein of Focus on the Family. Heavy hitters, worthy of the topic. Wagner noted with approval the presence of so many young conservatives, and concluded “youth gives credence to our movement.” Goeglein remarked that he finds pro-life students at every college campus he visits, and this of course encourages him in his work. “I remain exceedingly hopeful that Roe can be overturned. Right reason will prevail.”

A quieter, much lower-attendance panel met in the afternoon to discuss religious freedom as a winning issue for conservatives. That means, of course, the HHS mandate, which otherwise got short shrift at this weekend’s festivities.

morning: Random observation here: Allen West is as personable a man as I’m likely to find here. He walks through the halls of the convention with one person accompanying him, rather than the posse most of the speakers have, and he chats with people. Good to see. I must add that some of the speakers might not have much of a choice in the number of security & staff around them. National Harbor is bristling with police during CPAC.

Paul Ryan got the warmest, wildest welcome this morning that I’ve seen at the conference so far. He spoke in the ballroom this morning right after Kelly Ayotte, who was abruptly eclipsed the moment Ryan was introduced. No one else here can talk about prosaic matters like the budget with so much energy and verve. Nothing he said will come as surprise to anyone who has seen him campaign or heard him argue for his budget plan. He stayed on the budget message and didn’t drift into other issues. It was a forward-looking speech, devoid of nostalgia and bitterness, either of which might be tempting for lesser folk after November’s results. “A balanced budget is an opportunity to reform government. …We belong to one country as well as thousands of communities. The role of the federal government is not to replace those communities but to support them.” No snark, no snarl, no yelling. The crowd loved him before, during, and after he spoke.


By the way, the panel that followed him was “CSI Washington: a November 2012 Autopsy.” I find it telling that the panel had only a scattered audience. When Ryan left, people streamed out of the ballroom. I listened for awhile as Michael Barone of the Washington Examiner pointed out the technological superiority of the Democratic effort last year. (As an ex-GOP staffer, I will never be able to hear the word “orca” again without choking.) Former Congresswoman Ann Marie Buerkle of Michigan made a different point, just as apt: “my opponent ran a national campaign.” She said she has daughters and granddaughters, went to law school in her 40s, was the first woman elected to Congress from her district, “and they still painted me as part of the war on women.” She wanted eight debates during the campaign, and her opponent (who won the election) agreed to two. The national Democratic party, in Buerkle’s eyes, did all the campaigning and messaging very effectively. “They appealed to fear, and it worked.”

Neither Buerkle nor anyone else I’ve heard so far has blamed social issues per se for the defeat, but many – Buerkle and commentator Dick Morris most of all – warned that messaging has to change and the GOP has to “reach out, not write off,” in Morris’s words.

What I have NOT heard: what that messaging should be. I have also not heard anyone point out what is to me the glaringly obvious point that Republican candidates, particularly Republican men, don’t know how to deliver a conservative social-issues message to anyone who doesn’t already agree with them.  They have had no practice. Persuasion is a dying art, and modern politics is delivering the coup de grace, in my opinion. You can’t sharpen an argument by dodging challenges to it, and those challenges have got to come before a national spotlight goes on.

Enough ranting for the moment. I’m about to head to a lunchtime briefing with Rick Santorum, which will be followed by a top-tier forum on “The Fight for Religious Liberty 40 Years After Roe v. Wade.” My kind of stuff.