Late Friday afternoon, New Hampshire Governor John Lynch announced his veto of a bill to ban partial-birth abortion. The House and Senate will consider overrides to this and other vetoes on June 27.
After becoming the longest-serving New Hampshire governor in nearly two centuries, and after building a reputation as a moderate politician, he has chosen to end his tenure by defending the indefensible. John Lynch is pleasant, intelligent, cheerful, savvy, and friendly. But moderate? No politician who keeps the way clear for this kind of carnage is “moderate.”
The New Hampshire bill, HB 1679, was originally introduced by Rep. Ross Terrio (R-Manchester) as a ban on the partial-birth procedure and a ban on all late-term abortions. Soon after introduction, Terrio agreed to amend the bill so that it addressed only partial-birth. This put the bill in line with similar legislation in force in other states. The bill was drafted to complement federal law and to withstand court challenges. In a spirit of compromise and cooperation, supporters of the bill agreed to amendments that helped to build strong majorities for passage in House and Senate.
None of this figured into Governor Lynch’s veto. While beginning his statement with the assurance “I am not a proponent of so-called partial birth abortion”, he went on to reject the bill because he found it unnecessary and dangerous, in that order.
The federal ban means none is needed at the state level, according to the governor. He overlooked or ignored the fact that the federal law is only triggered if the partial-birth procedure is committed by a federal employee, or by someone on federal property, or by someone engaged in interstate commerce. He also made no mention of the fact that federal officials may choose not to enforce the federal law, leaving states without their own partial-birth bans helpless to stop the procedure.
Governor Lynch expressed fear that HB 1679 would jeopardize the life of a woman in emergency circumstances. He was critical of the bill’s requirement that two physicians agree that life-threatening conditions exist before a partial-birth procedure can be done. Getting that second opinion could cost a woman her life, he fears.
But how? The partial-birth ban would apply only to a particular procedure, not to all abortion methods. Any physician declaring an emergency could terminate a pregnancy without a second opinion, presumably with the pregnant woman’s consent, using any method other than the one that pulls the live child/fetus partway out of the woman’s body before “termination.” The governor’s objection sounds as though he means that women are at risk if that procedure is ruled out. (If the governor had true concern for women’s health and safety, he would direct the state department of public health to collect statistics on abortion in New Hampshire, so that he would have hard data to buttress any assertion that abortion is safe for women.)
Roe v. Wade established a woman’s right to choose abortion. According to the U.S. Supreme Court in the Gonzales case, Roe did not establish a provider’s right to kill a child after assisting a woman in a vaginal delivery of a portion of the child’s body. Or should I say fetus’s? Tough call, when the child/fetus is half-in and half-out of the mother. In any case, the Supreme Court upheld a federal ban on the partial-birth procedure. The Court decided that while the ban prevented the performance of one particularly gruesome and inhumane procedure, it did not amount to a denial of a woman’s choice since alternative abortion methods are available. Note that the federal law and New Hampshire bill apply to abortion providers, not to women seeking termination of pregnancy.
Having issued the veto, John Lynch is beyond persuasion. Representatives and state senators are not.
The governor’s full statement on HB 1679 is at http://1.usa.gov/MdosTR