Rep. Rideout: why I’m filing Griffin’s Law

Rep. Leon Rideout (facebook.com/rideout4rep)
Rep. Leon Rideout (facebook.com/rideout4rep)

In New Hampshire, when a pregnant woman loses her preborn child to an act of violence or other wrongful act – a child she wants and has chosen to carry to term – there is no crime. The statutes have nothing to say. It would take a fetal homicide law to change that.

Such laws are in place in other states, and the New Hampshire Supreme Court in the 2009 Lamy case urged the legislature to pass one. The last effort passed House and Senate but fell to Gov. John Lynch’s veto in 2012. Rep. Leon Rideout (R-Lancaster) is undeterred and is bringing back a fetal homicide bill that he’s calling Griffin’s Law. Why, when a similar bill failed so recently?

Because it’s personal. Griffin was his grandson.

I contacted Rep. Rideout recently and asked him about his bill. Here are excerpts from his written reply.

 On June 4th one of my daughters was involved in an auto accident when another driver ran a stop sign at a high rate of speed into the path of my daughter’s car. She was approximately 7½ months pregnant with Griffin…. [M]y daughter suffered serious injuries….While trying to stabilize her for a Med flight to Dartmouth, Griffin took a turn for the worse and despite an emergency C section and a 40 minute fight to resuscitate Him Griffin succumbed to injuries from the crash.

Current state law does not provide for homicide or manslaughter charges for the death of a child under such circumstances. There is simply no victim, as the Court reluctantly concluded in Lamy. As Justice Duggan wrote for a unanimous Court in that case, “Should the legislature find the result in this case as unfortunate as we do, it should follow the lead of many other states and revisit the homicide statutes as they pertain to a fetus.”

Rideout calls Lynch’s veto of the last fetal homicide bill “a black mark forever on his legacy.” Regarding the Lamy case, Rideout says he’s familiar with it, and finds “repugnant” the fact no such bill has been passed in response. “It was clear the Court was asking for the legislature to correct the law’s language….[T]his issue will not go away.”

Rideout’s bill has not yet been scheduled for a hearing but is likely to come before a House committee in January.

related posts on the 2012 fetal homicide bill:

In which I do my part to help President Obama spread the word about his “health care” plan

Just so we’re clear:

“We’re not going back,” Mr. Obama said. “We’re not repealing it as long as I’m president. I want everybody to be clear about that. We will make it work for all Americans.”

“It,” of course, is the President’s health care plan. I will refer to it here as Obamacare, despite the re-branding that is part of the President’s new-and-improved effort to promote it. The quote above was from a speech yesterday kicking off a series of appearances, a road show, to convince people that the fouled-up web site for signups is being de-fouled even as he speaks.

And the HHS mandate? That term hasn’t passed Mr. Obama’s lips lately, if ever. In case you’re wondering if he stands behind it, defends it, and thinks it’s an integral part of the plan, check out a line that appeared in yesterday’s speech and has already been used by the President’s surrogates:

Already, because of the Affordable Care Act, preventive care like mammograms and birth control are free through your employers.

The President would have us believe that a $500 mammogram and a $10 birth control prescription are identical as “preventive care,” presumably because he thinks pregnancy and cancer amount to the same thing. “Mammogramsandbirthcontrol” has become one word in the White House lexicon, occasionally varied with “cancerscreeningsandbirthcontrol.” It’s all the same, says the traveling salesman.

“I’m going to need some help in spreading the world. I need you to spread the word about the law …Tell your friends. Tell your family.”

Glad to oblige.

First, I refuse to take health advice from any individual or any bureaucracy that cannot distinguish between a mammogram and birth control pills. The medical professionals who colluded in the development of Obamacare policy should be ashamed of themselves for calling fertility suppression “preventive” care.

Second, the President is once again not being straight with his audience – either the adoring fans he had at yesterday’s speech, or the American public he likes to address on television – about the fact that he is determined to roll the First Amendment flat, using Obamacare as the steamroller. The HHS mandate to force participation in a program providing “free” birth control is a direct denial of the religious freedom rights of Americans who dissent from the Administration’s view that there is no moral aspect to birth control and abortion. Catholics who accept Catholic teaching (and what a world, in which I have to include that modifier) are not the only people affected. Evangelical Protestants, among others, have gone to court over this.

Third, looking at the lawsuits challenging the mandate, two have arrived at the Supreme Court. In the case involving Hobby Lobby, the plaintiffs say they only object to a few of the birth control methods defined as “preventive” under the President’s law, namely the ones that actually induce early abortions rather than prevent fertilization. The President isn’t commenting on the very real possibility that the U.S. Supreme Court will declare that abortive agents are the same as contraceptives. We have already seen from the list of “preventive” services under the health care law that biology has been put at the service of politics. No one familiar with twentieth century history should be able to contemplate that without recoiling.

So there are three things the President won’t tell you: “preventive” is a misnomer, the First Amendment is at stake, and science and politics are in bed together.

What would I do instead, you ask? Repeal the mandate. We can debate ways and means and web sites once the First Amendment is restored to its proper place. But first, simply repeal the mandate.

I wrote last February (“Memo to the President: Mandate 2.0 is still a failure”) about how the mandate was not being fixed by the Administration despite a few tweaks. Then, as now, the President was seeking public comment. I am nothing if not responsive to such appeals. Much of what I wrote then still holds today.

You cited advisors at the “Institute of Medicine” who concluded that it is much cheaper for women to be chemically altered than to have babies. Sterilization and abortion-inducing drugs made it into the Mandate as well. No corresponding concern for the cost savings attendant upon male contraception and sterilization made it into your guidelines for “preventive” services.

…Your contempt for my religion still permeates your health care plan. It is a matter of deep religious belief for me that fertility is a gift, to be regulated by means consistent with human dignity, and at no point considered to be a public health problem. And if you call contraception “preventive,” then you are calling fertility a problem.

…Women aren’t broken and they don’t need fixing. If only you hadn’t called contraception for women a “preventive” service, we wouldn’t need to have this conversation. How ironic that an Administration that has claimed “being a woman shouldn’t be a pre-existing condition” has codified precisely the opposite.

[The Administration issued modified regulations to determine which religious institutions could get a waiver from the mandate.] … Instead of one executive agency (HHS) deciding what’s religious, you are turning the matter over to another executive agency, the IRS, that has been making that determination for years. The new regs also exempt non-profit religious organizations that meet four criteria, or jump through four hoops, to the satisfaction of whatever agency is going to implement this whole policy. Seldom do the American people have cause to be glad the IRS is going to define religion, but at least by bringing the tax people into it, you are making an effort at consistency. [I need to take back that last sentence. When I wrote it last February, I hadn’t heard of Lois Lerner.]

But what about individuals? What about groups that do not hold themselves out to be “religious” but are nonetheless animated by a respect for life that makes the Mandate abhorrent to them? What about a business owner – someone who owns a hobby store, as an example – who has religious objections to providing contraception and abortion-inducing drugs by way of employee health insurance?… Individuals have religious liberty AND conscience protection under our Constitution, and those protections are not forfeited when individuals form groups or run businesses.

Like the man said, I need you to spread the word about the law. Tell your friends.

 

First HHS Mandate cases get to U.S. Supreme Court

In 1969, in the Tinker case involving the First Amendment rights of students in a public school, the U.S. Supreme Court famously ruled, “It can hardly be argued that either students or teachers shed their constitutional rights to freedom of speech or expression at the schoolhouse gate.”

Today, forty-four years later, the Supreme Court has agreed to take two cases that may lead to a ruling on whether First Amendment rights must be shed at a business’s front door. The Court will hear arguments in the Spring of 2014, and a decision could come by the end of June.

Mennonites, Evangelical Christians plead their case

Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood Specialties are two of the for-profit businesses that have gone to court in an effort to overturn Obamacare’s mandate that all businesses offering health insurance to employees must help pay for coverage for abortion-inducing drugs, including those marketed as contraceptives. Strictly a Catholic concern? Hardly. The family that owns Hobby Lobby professes evangelical Christianity in the Protestant tradition, while the owners of Conestoga are Mennonites.

The Becket Fund, a public-interest law firm representing Hobby Lobby (Sebelius v. Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc.) issued a statement today in response to the Court’s decision to take the cases, reading in part:

“This is a major step for the Greens and their family businesses in an important fight for Americans’ religious liberty,” said Kyle Duncan, general counsel of the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty and lead lawyer for Hobby Lobby. “We are hopeful that the Supreme Court will clarify once and for all that religious freedom in our country should be protected for family business owners like the Greens.”

In July, a lower federal court granted Hobby Lobby a preliminary injunction preventing the government from enforcing the HHS mandate requiring the family businesses to provide in the employee health insurance plan two drugs and two devices that are potentially life-terminating.

The Greens and their family businesses – who have no moral objection to providing 16 of the 20 FDA-approved contraceptives required under the HHS mandate and do so at no additional cost to employees under their self-insured health plan – then took the unusual step in October of joining the government in asking the U.S. Supreme Court to review the case, despite the family’s victory in the U.S. Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals.

The other case taken by the Court, Conestoga Wood Specialties v. Sebelius, comes from a different Circuit Court of Appeals than the Hobby Lobby case. The two cases were decided differently in lower courts, and now the Supreme Court will consider both at once.

“Accommodations” and questions

The HHS Mandate, part of the regulations accompanying Obamacare, raised religious liberty issues as soon as it was announced in early 2012. The Administration made what it called an “accommodation” with religious employers, with the definition of “religious employer” left to the federal government. When that proved insufficient to meet the concerns of Americans who take their religious liberty seriously, the Administration tweaked its “accommodations” further, until finally last June the Mandate was declared “final.”

As a result, lawsuits are abounding all over the country. Some have been filed by nonprofit organizations, some by educational institutions, some by entities affiliated with a church but legally distinct from it. Owners and managers in each case hold religious beliefs that conflict with the demands of the Mandate.

I can’t predict what questions will be asked during arguments before the Court. Some issues, though, will have to be decided eventually, either in these cases or one of the others now pending.

Does a religious liberty interest apply to an individual acting as owner of a business, as well as to an individual acting alone?

If the federal government calls a certain drug “contraceptive” when it is in fact abortifacient, will the First Amendment apply to an individual who recognizes that the government is acting in error?

Will the Court reach into the underpinning of the Mandate, and rule on the definition of contraception as “preventive care” under Obamacare?

The web site may be down, but the Mandate stands

Obamacare’s biggest roadblock to date has proven to be the inadequate web site that is interfering with signups for health insurance. Nothing about a lousy web site wipes out 15,000 pages of Obamacare regulations, including the Mandate.

According to the Becket Fund, there are 84 lawsuits challenging the constitutionality of the Mandate. It will take more than one Supreme Court decision to address them all. The first two cases have made it over a big hurdle, though. Stay tuned.

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Chemical abortion scores in court

Women’s health is going up against chemical abortion in courts this week. Health is taking a hit.

Courts to abortion providers: we’ve got your back 

Iowa’s Sue Thayer, former PP manager, is reporting today that an Iowa judge just granted an emergency stay on a new Iowa law that would have required a physician to be present with a woman on whom an abortion is being performed. The law, which would have blocked “telemed” chemical abortions, was to have gone into effect tomorrow. The case is Planned Parenthood of the Heartland, Inc. v. Iowa Board of Medicine. (“Heartland,” indeed. Orwell, call your office.)

Yesterday, the U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear a challenge to a lower-court ruling that overturned an Oklahoma law regulating the use of chemical abortion. The law would have required that abortion providers adhere to FDA protocol limiting chemical abortion, using drugs rather than surgery, to 49 days of pregnancy. The case is Cline v. Oklahoma Coalition for Reproductive Justice. 

Meanwhile, in Texas …

The new four-part Texas law made famous by a state senator’s effort to filibuster it to death is being challenged piecemeal. So far, the U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals has allowed the law to go into effect. (See Planned Parenthood of Greater Texas Surgical Health Services v. Abbott.)

The most immediate effect of the Texas law seems to have been triggered by the law’s requirement that a physician performing abortions have admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles of the abortion facility. Over a dozen abortion facilities have reportedly closed down as a result of that provision. Abby Johnson, another ex-PP-manager, calls this a “Texas Size Victory.”

New Hampshire implications

Challenges to the manner of use of chemical abortion in New Hampshire have been administrative and judicial so far, not legislative.

As reported here in early September, pro-life physicians and civil liberties attorneys have urged the New Hampshire Boards of Medicine and Nursing to investigate Planned Parenthood’s advertising of chemical abortions through 63 days of pregnancy instead of the FDA protocol’s 49 days. As attorney Michael Norton from Alliance Defending Freedom said at that time,

No matter where people stand on abortion, everyone should agree that Planned Parenthood must abide by established FDA protocols for using a potentially dangerous drug. This includes requiring a licensed professional to personally meet with women and examining them before prescribing abortion-inducing drugs which pose serious health risks, and limiting the length of time it can be used…. [It is] important to hold healthcare providers to appropriate standards of care for women in New Hampshire in connection with the provision of drugs which result in abortions.

The October 29, 2013 edition of the New Hampshire Union Leader carried a front-page article reporting that New Hampshire Right to Life and two individual citizens from Cheshire County have gone to court over chemical abortions administered by Planned Parenthood of Northern New England. At issue: the 49-day limit, the right of PPNNE to prescribe any drug whatsoever in the absence of a state contract, and the practice of distributing the drug for at-home use rather than for administration in a physician’s office.

New Hampshire is in a different judicial circuit than Oklahoma, and so ruling on that state’s chemical-abortion law is not binding here. It does not augur well, though, when the U.S. Supreme Court lets a lower court throw out the Oklahoma law. This will no doubt have a chilling effect on efforts to regulate chemical abortions and monitor their effects on women’s health.

Chemical abortion: the wave of the future?

While I’ve been concerned that the lessons of Gosnell are already being forgotten in some quarters, late-term abortion restrictions are gaining ground in several states. If there’s one thing the Gosnell trial will be remembered for, it’ll be the images of those babies he tried to abort and then “snipped.” They looked just like … babies.

Chemical abortion, on the other hand, is much neater. The preborn children look less like children. The mother can’t feel the baby yet, as early in pregnancy as abortion drugs are supposed to be administered. The pills can be sent home with the mother, even in defiance of the law. Telemed abortions, in which a provider teleconferences with a mother before remotely unlocking a drawer to give the mother access to abortion pills, requires much less overhead than a surgical abortion facility. The drugs are relatively cheap. The mother bleeds and sheds her child into pads or her toilet at home, keeping the abortion-drug provider from having to deal with medical “waste.”

Now there’s a business model. No wonder abortion advocates go to court to fight regulations on chemical abortions.

(Fact: one of the nurse practitioners on staff at the abortion-providing Lovering Center in Greenland, New Hampshire did her Ph.D. dissertation on “Women’s Experience with Decision-making with Medication Abortion.”)

Medication/chemical; potato/potahto. Ironically, women’s experience with the outcome of “medication abortion” is something neither academic medicine nor public health can pin down, at least not in New Hampshire. No one collects reliable statistics on how many women choose drug-induced abortion or how many women experience poor outcomes as a result. The number of chemically-induced attempted abortions that “fail” and are then followed up with surgical abortion is a mystery as well. Abortion providers lobby against stats bills, and call opponents “anti-choice” for wanting data.

How is that not putting politics ahead of women’s health?

 

 

 

 

Supreme Court to consider First Amendment rights of pro-life demonstrators

From www.supremecourt.gov
From supremecourt.gov

The U.S. Supreme Court is back in session, and among the cases it will decide by next summer is one from Massachusetts challenging that state’s 35-foot no-protest zone around abortion facilities [McCullen v. Coakley]. The plaintiffs are seven pro-lifers who regularly do sidewalk counseling outside abortion facilities in Boston, Worcester, and Springfield.

The pending case was a factor in the decision by the Concord, NH City Council not to follow up on a petition to impose a 35-foot zone around the Feminist Health Center. When that petition was in the news, I went to Concord to measure what a 35-foot zone would look like there (see Thirty-Five Feet in Theory and Practice). I still wonder if the Concord Chamber of Commerce realizes that a 35-foot “buffer” would put pro-lifers on its doorstep instead of the FHC’s. If the Supreme Court upholds the Massachusetts law, you can expect to see a buffer zone imposed by the city, if not by the state.

The challenged law applies to “reproductive health facilities” excluding hospitals. Violators are subject to fines and jail time, becoming more severe with repeat offenses. Mark L. Rienzi, attorney for the plaintiffs, told Boston.com, “The same rules have to apply to all speakers. The government cannot put peaceful pro-life speakers in jail, but give Planned Parenthood free rein on the same sidewalk.” It seems that employees of the abortion providers, who are not subject to the law, have been known to stand in front of the facilities and interact with clients in a manner to drown out the pro-lifers 35 feet away.

I saw a tweet the other day from Planned Parenthood of Northern New England, calling on supporters to show up in Portland to promote a “patient safety zone” there. That’s yet another euphemism for “First-Amendment-free zone.”

The Court last addressed no-protest zones in 2000 in the Hill v. Colorado case, when a 6-3 vote upheld a Colorado law establishing an 8-foot buffer.  Five of those Justices are still on the Court, two of whom were in the Hill majority.

Late-term abortion case on appeal

From Americans United for Life comes this news that Arizona officials are appealing a lower court decision striking down the state’s law limiting abortions after the fifth month of pregnancy. According to AUL,  “Arizona’s defense relies directly on the Supreme Court’s 2007 decision in Gonzales v. Carhart, which upheld the federal partial birth abortion ban act. In that case, the Supreme Court expressed concern with late-term abortions and their impact on the unborn child and women’s health.”