Not too long ago, New Hampshire Representative Warren Groen (R-Rochester) objected to making the red-tailed hawk the state raptor. This was what’s known in New Hampshire as a fourth-graders’ bill: fourth-graders study New Hampshire history and government, and annually at least one group of kids promotes a bill as a sort of civics lesson. State beverage, state fossil, state raptor, what have you. All the kids need is a rep to introduce the bill. The students testify, the bills usually pass, and everyone goes home happy.
Well, almost everybody. These bills cost money and time to hear, and legislative hearing time has been squeezed a bit by the weather this session.
Rep. Groen spoke up against the raptor bill when it got to the House floor. He spoke bluntly, as is his custom. His remarks would probably have passed without notice had he left out one thing.
With fourth-graders in the gallery – which to judge from the ensuing outcry made the situation just too, too awful – Groen said, “The redtailed hawk grasps its prey with its talons and then uses its razor-sharp beak to rip its victims to shreds, basically tearing them limb from limb … it would serve as a much better mascot for Planned Parenthood.”
Uproar ensued. The Governor apologized to fourth-graders. The House Speaker told Groen to apologize. A hundred editorials and blog posts bloomed, most excoriating Groen for exercising poor taste. (By the way, the bill was defeated on a voice vote.)
Three weeks later, once noise had receded, came the best commentary I saw on the matter – surely better than anything I could write. Rep. Groen’s brother Fenton, former state senator, wrote an op-ed for the Nashua Telegraph. Copyright considerations prevent me from re-posting the piece in its entirety, but I highly recommend looking it up at this link. [Update: the New Hampshire Union Leader has since published the piece.] There may be a paywall, but sign in as a guest if you’re able. Go to your library if you can’t find it anywhere else, but read the essay. Fenton Groen is absolutely on target in tone and substance.
In exercise of my free speech, let me comment on the content of my brother’s words and on his reason for saying them. Yes, Warren is my brother. We served together in the Legislature in 2011-12. Anyone who knows us knows we often disagree on methods.
It is fascinating that in all of the raucous press over Warren’s words, I have not heard anyone say that his comparison of the actions of a redtailed hawk to an abortion is inaccurate.
Warren did not attack the fourth-grade class. He pointed out that the abortions Planned Parenthood performs (370,000 each year) are done in a way that is chillingly similar to the actions of the redtailed hawk. That comparison is his “crime.” If we find it so revolting that a fourth-grade class should hear these remarks, where is the outrage over the one child of every five who is not in that fourth-grade class because no one heard the cry of the nameless little “Who” when he or she died in an abortion clinic nine years ago?
Rep. Groen’s “crime” – if it is a crime – is that he has heard the silent scream of that little one and it compels him to action, no matter how unpopular.
Three Democrats bucked their party by opposing the ITL: Roger Berube (D-Somersworth), Amanda Bouldin (D-Manchester), Alan Cohen (D-Nashua). The other 139 votes against ITL came from Republicans.
A Republican representative has advised me that the speaker’s leadership team did not take a formal position beyond advising the Republican caucus that the Judiciary Committee had recommended ITL. Majority Leader Jack Flanagan (R-Brookline) and Deputy Speaker Gene Chandler (R-Bartlett) voted ITL; majority whip Dick Hinch (R-Merrimack) opposed the motion; Speaker Shawn Jasper of Hudson was presiding and did not vote.
Thirty-eight representatives are listed as “not voting.” That makes no distinction between excused absences and simply ducking the bill. The House Journal for the day’s proceedings will be ready in a week or so, with excused absences listed.
When a similar bill came up in 2012, (HB 228, also sponsored by Rep. Groen), the House voted to pass it, 207-147. The Senate later tabled the bill.
Visualize this: serious matters are at stake. A problem needs solving. Attention must be paid. Concentrate … focus …
Ooh, look! squirrel! The furry little diversion scatters concentration and focus to the point where one wonders what the problem was in the first place. There’s a squirrel. How can you not want to watch that entertaining little critter?
There were squirrels all over the room when a New Hampshire House committee considered HB 677, a bill to prevent taxpayer dollars from subsidizing abortion providers. Let taxpayers divest from a violent, life-ending industry. Let abortion providers adjust their business models so they can concentrate on patient care instead of marketing and lobbying. Separate out abortion from other services and stop the fiction that abortion is health care. Pro-choice all around: get an abortion if you want; provide them if you want; pay your taxes secure in the knowledge that you’re not paying for someone else’s abortion. Such were the goals of Rep. Warren Groen (R-Rochester) and his co-sponsors.
The public seating area was full at the hearing. Most in attendance were ordinary citizens without the lobbyists’ orange badges. Most were pro-life. All had taken time away from family and work obligations for this and four other life-issue hearings during the day. They signed in; committee members will know that the majority of people at the hearing opposed the bill.
Others were present as well: Planned Parenthood of Northern New England’s lobbyist, Jennifer Frizzell, who makes sure to add to her intro that she represents PP’s Action Fund (the pink t-shirt people). Representatives of the Feminist Health and Lovering Centers. A retired physician representing colleagues in opposition to the bill. State reps and a state senator, rushing in an out of the room to get back to their own committees’ work. Cornerstone (for which I used to lobby), representing thousands of people who want to get out of subsidizing abortion providers.
Sponsor Groen cited the Texas model: agencies providing abortion along with other services could separate their abortion segment altogether. Separate facilities, staff, budgets. A separate business and legal entity, truly freestanding. That way, tax money going to family planning would definitely not go to abortion providers. Guess what some Texas abortion providers (notably Planned Parenthood) did in response? They closed facilities altogether rather than separate out abortion – and then they accused the state of denying women access to care.
That was a business decision, not a medical one, and it certainly wasn’t compelled by any politician. Texas has not caved in, at least not yet.
Turns out that any mention of Texas in front of New Hampshire abortion promoters is a bad move. Planned Parenthood released squirrel #1, which roughly translated sounded like Ewww, we’re not Texas! “Texas probably ranks 49th or 50th in teen reproductive health,” whatever that means, according to Frizzell. She went on to say, “We [PP] are the best at what we do. We’re proud of our brand.”
Before wrapping up, she set squirrel #2 loose. “Six out of ten women coming to Planned Parenthood consider Planned Parenthood their primary care provider.” Abortion and primary care, one and inseparable, now and forever. She managed to get through her testimony without acknowledging that the bill was about respect for the choices of her New Hampshire neighbors who do not want their money subsidizing abortions.
Any public funds – family planning funds, for instance, which are supposedly not used for most elective abortions – received by an abortion provider who also provides health care helps to subsidize abortion. Those funds keep the lights on, pay salaries of support staff, and let the organization pay lobbyists to try to keep abortion unregulated.
This fact was slyly sidestepped by at least two committee members, who asked for documentation that public funds were indeed being diverted for abortions. With providers seamlessly weaving abortion into genuine health care, no such internal documentation is likely to exist. That’s what those committee members wanted on record. They can now say that no one showed them specific dollars being used to pay for specific abortions. They don’t want to hear about how public money frees up internal funds with which a provider can do abortions and lobby against pro-life taxpayers.
In came Senator Lou D’Allesandro (D-Manchester), a reliable ally to abortion advocates. He can always be counted on to get worked up when pro-lifers try to assert their rights, and he did not disappoint. He represents the district including PP’s Manchester facility, so he focused his remarks on PP. “This legislation is misguided and harmful to women.” He pounded his fist on the table and ratcheted up the volume a notch. “My daughter uses Planned Parenthood for her health care.” More pounding. The committee chairman looked on placidly. “These services” – the non-abortion work done at PP – “are absolutely essential if you’re going to have quality of life. It is totally unreasonable to expect any accounting change. We are not Texas!” More pounding; louder voice. “I represent the poorest district in Manchester. The POOREST!”
It was left to the Senator to send squirrel number 3 scurrying through the room. “Cancer screenings!” Abortion and cancer screenings are apparently inseparable, politically if not medically. Well-played. Again, the taxpayers – including the poorest – who simply want to divest from an unregulated industry that kills children did not rate a mention.
Dr. Barry Smith, speaking for an industry group of physicians, was content to speak in a modest tone after the Senator’s appearance. “This is a bad bill. It runs the risk of hurting services.” Services, again. He didn’t release any squirrels on his own; he merely petted the ones already on the loose.
The pro-life supporters of the bill simply didn’t bring drama to the table. One can’t fault them for that. The single strongest pro-life statement of the hearing came from soft-spoken Rep. Kathy Souza (R-Manchester): “This bill is good for New Hampshire. Money that’s now being used for killing children could be used to save lives.”
Yes, money that’s now being used for killing children: that’s what those grants to abortion providers mean, even if the grants themselves are for irreproachably genuine health care. The Texas abortion providers have demonstrated to the nation exactly where the genuine health care ranks in their estimation: somewhere below abortions. They closed facilities altogether rather than change their abortion-centered service model.
Health care, yes. Abortion, no. One fosters life; the other ends it. Health care and abortion are not the same thing. Would someone pounding the table to make that point have received the same indulgence as the Senator?
The New Hampshire House committee will vote on the bill in a week or so, with the Senator’s table-pounding appearance still ringing in their ears.
“We’re not Texas” – “cancer screenings” – “risk of hurting services” – killer squirrels, every one.
Do you want to know who’d like to see coerced abortions in New Hampshire? Come to room 205 of the Legislative Office Building Thursday and see who comes out against a bill protecting conscience rights for medical professionals.
I’m not talking about people who might have questions about the form the bill should take or who might say the bill is unnecessary. I mean watch out for the people who call conscience protections a threat to “access” to contraception, abortion, assisted reproduction, what have you. When you hear testimony about squelching conscience rights in favor of “access,” you’re hearing a pitch for coerced abortions.
There’s more than one way to coerce an abortion. One is to forcibly terminate a woman’s pregnancy, against her will. Another is to force someone to participate in the termination.
Representatives Warren Groen of Rochester and Richard Gordon of East Kingston are proposing HB 670 to prohibit discrimination against health care providers who conscientiously object to participating in any health care services. Violations would be dealt with using civil penalties, not criminal sanctions. “Conscience” is defined in the bill as “the religious, moral, or ethical principles held by a health care provider, a health care institution, or a health care payer…. [A] health care institution or health care payer’s conscience shall be determined by reference to its existing or proposed religious, moral, or ethical guidelines; mission statement; constitution; bylaws; articles of incorporation; regulations; or other relevant documents.”
The bill would protect any individual who may be asked in any way to participate in a health care service. The protection wouldn’t be limited to people with medical degrees or titles. If you’re at all involved in patient care, HB 670 would protect you.
A similar but slightly different bill was tabled in 2012. The chairman of Judiciary at that time told his colleagues that while the language was flawed, the committee favored the idea of such a bill. There was an opposing view, written as a minority report by then-Rep. Rick Watrous: conscience protections were “anti-patient and anti-business and would inject chaos and uncertainty into New Hampshire health care.”
A preview of testimony this week? Could be.
Conscience: what a burden. Better guard it before someone finds it too inconvenient to tolerate.
Live and let live? Promote choice? Sure. Let’s start by saying that while abortion is legal, taxpayers shouldn’t foot the bill for it. We’ll see tomorrow if at least 13 senators can get behind that.
Whatever tomorrow’s outcome, HB 228 has been a triumph.
This bill would let pro-life New Hampshire residents keep their money away from abortion providers. Several sponsors, led by Rep. Warren Groen (R-Rochester), have kept the bill going since February 2011. Dogged persistence and some nimble legislative footwork have brought the bill through multiple hearings, delays, amendments, an attempt to kill it on the House floor, and finally House passage last January. Now it’s the Senate’s turn. The Health and Human Services committee voted to recommend the bill by the slimmest of margins (3-2).
The meat of the bill, as of today: “The department shall not enter into a contract with, or make a grant to, any entity that performs non-federally qualified abortions or maintains or operates a facility where non-federally qualified abortions are performed; provided that this paragraph shall not apply to any hospital.” So hospitals are exempt. The feds’ “qualified abortions” are exempt. No provider is singled out, although PPNNE is bitterly characterizing the bill as an attack on its business. The bill’s backers have time and time again been responsive to constructive suggestions.
State reps have started looking at the business models of abortion providers. They are questioning the statistics being tossed around by those providers (“…only 3 to 5 percent of our business is abortion,” says PPNNE’s lobbyist), which has helped to boost support for collecting statistics via HB 1680. In the House, reps were willing to push back against threats of litigation.
And while Planned Parenthood is not mentioned in the current version of the bill, PPNNE is sure acting like the bill is all about them. They warn darkly of a loss of federal funds and denial of “critical health services” if this bill passes.
Consider the source: PPNNE’s 2010 annual report indicates $3.1 million spent on administration; $822,000 on public policy, including the aforementioned lobbyist; $445,000 on marketing. And they warn of having to turn women away if HB 228 passes?
The senators are under pressure. PPNNE and NARAL Pro-Choice NH have ramped up their networks, and I expect to see lots of “Trust Women” and “I Stand With PP” stickers in the hall outside the Senate chamber tomorrow morning. $822,000 buys a lot of stickers. Do not expect a straight GOP/Dem split on this one (or any of the other pro-life bills on the calendar, with the possible exception of the stats bill).
When the dust has settled, regardless of the outcome, no one running for re-election next fall will be able to dodge fallout from this vote. That’s as it should be.