Veto! Sununu says no to abortion insurance mandate

New Hampshire Governor Chris Sununu has vetoed a measure to create an abortion-insurance mandate for certain health insurance policies. In his veto message on HB 685, he cited conscience concerns and a potential loss of federal funds if the bill were to become law.

“This bill would risk the States federal healthcare funding in the middle of a pandemic, take away the freedom of choice for those employees and employers who object to being forced to partake in or provide abortion services, and expose the State to expensive litigation. Therefore, the costs and risks of this bill far outweigh its benefits.” (Full statement at this link.)

HB 685’s advocates, citing “parity,” treat abortion as health care. To them, conscience protections are “discriminatory attacks.” They seek to remove abortion-free options for anyone who chooses not to help provide abortions, including insurance providers, business owners who offer health insurance as a benefit to employees, and individuals paying insurance premiums.

HB 685 got to the Governor’s desk after a tortuous legislative process that included stripping an unrelated bill of its language in order to replace it with the abortion insurance mandate. The bill was passed in spite of a House rule barring nongermane amendments. There was no House public hearing on the bill in its amended form.

Overriding the veto would require a two-thirds vote in House and Senate. The House Clerk has announced that the House will have its “Veto Day” on September 16 at UNH’s Whittemore Center in Durham.

Earlier coverage of HB 685: Mandate bill created in rushed process, Clock is ticking on abortion insurance bill

To thank the Governor: (603) 271-2121 or governorsununu@nh.gov

Edited to correct date for House Veto Day.

After one-month delay, clock is ticking on abortion insurance bill

The abortion insurance mandate bill crafted by pro-abortion New Hampshire legislators is finally on Governor Sununu’s desk. HB 685 was passed and entered the enrollment process on June 30. Not until August 5 did the Senate finally sign off on the bill. Governor Sununu now has five business days to act on it.

The Governor’s office phone number is (603) 271-2121. Email is governorsununu@nh.gov. He could act on the bill as early as today.

Five-day countdown after one-month delay

HB 685 entered the enrollment process on June 30 after a rule-bending journey through House and Senate. Enrollment is normally an administrative procedure lasting a few days, involving getting signatures from House and Senate leaders. By delaying sign-off, those leaders can affect the timing of when a bill gets to the Governor.

In the case of HB 685, the Senate was the chokepoint. Senate President Donna Soucy finally did her job and sent the bill to the Governor on August 5. From there, Governor Chris Sununu has five business days to sign or veto the bill, or let it become law without his signature.

The last option – letting it become law without his signature – is no different from signing it outright.

The big lie: “reproductive health parity”

Abortion advocates have titled the mandate a “reproductive health parity” bill. That’s a backhanded acknowledgment of the fact that even among abortion-friendly legislators, the word “abortion” is radioactive.

Don’t be fooled. HB 685 is an abortion bill. It is founded on the false notion that abortion is health care, together with the false notion that “access” means forcing the community as a whole to help procure abortions.

In a press release tweeted out by Senate Democrats, Sen. Cindy Rosenwald (D-Nashua) said that HB 685 is essential to “guaranteeing full reproductive health care and reducing barriers for women when making their constitutionally protected decisions.”

No word on whether Senator Rosenwald is interested in repealing the buffer zone law, which was passed in the thus-far-vain hope it would be a barrier for women making constitutionally protected decisions to demonstrate publicly and peacefully outside abortion facilities.

An interesting anniversary

Whether the Senate Democrats intended so or not, their statement on HB 685 comes on the fifth anniversary of then-Executive Councilor Sununu’s surprising vote to deny a state contract to Planned Parenthood of Northern New England. In a joyous borderline-intemperate Facebook post that day, I wrote “Can I get a Hell Yeah for Chris Sununu? He courageously voted no on PP contracts, citing need for alternatives for women in his district.”

Why so shocking? Because he had voted to grant earlier PP contracts, and only a few months later, he reverted to supporting PP contracts again.

Coverage in this blog noted more about Sununu’s vote on August 5, 2015.

In the discussion preceding the vote, Sununu said “I’m pro-choice and I support Planned Parenthood, but in my district, women have no [other] choice.” He unsuccessfully urged Hassan and his fellow Councilors to “take a step back” and support a study of health care options in Sununu’s southeastern New Hampshire district. He said he got calls from constituents who wanted family planning services but not at Planned Parenthood. He also expressed concern about activities at other Planned Parenthood affiliates documented in the [Center for Medical Progress] videos [documenting PP commerce in fetal body parts], which were dismissed by Hassan, Van Ostern and Pappas (in identical language) as “heavily edited.” “I’ve watched that video cover to cover with no edits,” said Sununu. “I’m pro-choice, but that’s not the issue here.”

reported in Leaven for the Loaf, 8/5/15

Perhaps the better angels of his nature will prevail again in 2020.

U.S. Supreme Court, 5-4: Abortion Providers Don’t Need Hospital Admitting Privileges

The U.S. Supreme Court today struck down a Louisiana law requiring an abortion provider to have admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles of the abortion facility. The case was June Medical Services v. Russo. The vote was 5-4, with Justice Stephen Breyer writing for a majority that included Justices Ginsburg, Sotomayor, Kagan, and Chief Justice Roberts.

Justice Breyer concluded his opinion by saying that the Louisiana law placed a “substantial obstacle” between a woman and an abortion, thus making it in violation of the 1992 Casey decision. Anything that happens in the wake of an abortion – hemorrhaging, for example – is apparently none of the Court’s concern.

Breyer also cited the 2016 Whole Women’s Health decision, regarding a Texas law, in striking down Louisiana’s statute.

Separate dissents were filed by Justices Alito, Thomas, Gorsuch, and Kavanaugh.

The Louisiana law did not affect the legality of abortion itself, did not shutter any abortion facilities, and did not address the right to life. It was supposed to be strictly about women’s health. Women’s health lost. The June Medical decision, however Justice Breyer views his handiwork, is about the rights of abortion providers, period.

Chief Justice Roberts was the swing vote

The standard of care (so to speak) for abortion excludes the need for the abortion provider to have hospital admitting privileges in case a patient suffers a complication. Any medical professionals who take issue with that can complain to the Justices.

Don’t bother with Justices Breyer, Ginsburg, Sotomayor, and Kagan. Go straight to Justice Roberts. He agreed with the decision, but not for the same reasons as his fellow majority Justices, each of whom is well-known to be abortion-friendly. He concluded that the Louisiana law had to be overturned because the Court had ruled in 2016 that a similar Texas law be overturned. Stare decisis, don’t ya know. “The question today however is not whether Whole Woman’s Health [the Texas case] was right or wrong, but whether to adhere to it in deciding the present case.”

One wonders if this guy would have voted against Brown v. Board of Education back in the 1950s, since it overturned Plessy v. Ferguson, the “separate but equal” case that kept racial segregation in place for decades. Brown was a unanimous decision. Can you imagine a dissent like the one Roberts released today? The question today is not whether Plessy was right or wrong

I’m trying to imagine the Chief Justice as he tried to figure out how to agree with the majority without looking like he agreed with it. He could have just signed on to Breyer’s opinion without comment, as did the women on the Court. But no. He wanted to make sure everyone knew his hands were tied by stare decisis.

He could have arrived at a different conclusion if he had cared about a glaring procedural question in the case: the standing of the plaintiffs. Did abortion providers as a group have any business bringing the case, without a single named patient’s rights having been violated? The Court today said yes. A different conclusion by Justice Roberts would have changed the outcome.

I wish I could take credit for a Facebook post from an acquaintance of mine, posted a few minutes after the June Medical decision was released: “Are there any statues of Justice Roberts? Asking for a friend.” With nothing to pull down, I’m left with objecting to his concurrence.

Excerpts from four minority views

Justice Clarence Thomas dealt with the issue of standing at the very beginning of his 20-page dissent. “As is often the case with legal challenges to abortion regulations, this suit was brought by abortionists and abortion clinics. Their sole claim before this Court is that Louisiana’s law violates the purported substantive due process right of a woman to abort her unborn child. But they concede that this right does not belong to them, and they seek to vindicate no private rights of their own.” [emphasis added]

Thomas’s dissent didn’t rest on procedure alone, though. Earlier Court decisions on abortion “created the right to abortion out of whole cloth, without a shred of support from the Constitution’s text. Our abortion precedents are grievously wrong and should be overruled. Because we have neither jurisdiction nor constitutional authority to declare Louisiana’s duly enacted law unconstitutional, I respectfully dissent.”

Next up was Justice Samuel Alito, opening his dissent – respectful dissent, of course – by blasting his colleagues’ reasoning. “The majority bills today’s decision as a facsimile of Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt [striking down portions of a Texas law in 2016]…, and it’s true they have something in common. In both, the abortion right recognized in this Court’s decisions is used like a bulldozer to flatten legal rules that stand in the way.”

The most recently-confirmed Justices weighed in as well. June Medical is hardly a case where either one was called upon to rule on the right to life, but their dissents bear consideration nonetheless.

Justice Gorsuch: “The judicial power is constrained by an array of rules. …Individually, these rules may seem prosaic. But, collectively, they help keep us in our constitutionally assigned lane, sure that we are in the business of saying what the law is, not what we wish it to be. Today’s decision doesn’t just overlook one of these rules. It overlooks one after another….To arrive at today’s result, rules must be brushed aside and shortcuts taken.”

I’ll leave finer minds than mine to ponder how that squares with Gorsuch’s recent opinion that sex includes gender identity under Title VII.

Justice Kavanaugh, you may recall, got a confirmation vote from Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) only after assuring her that he would respect Roe. Not a promising commitment. But in his brief dissent in June Medical, he agreed with one of Justice Alito’s points, that the factual record behind the case was incomplete. There simply weren’t enough facts in the record for him to be willing to throw out a duly enacted state law.

effect on new hampshire

New Hampshire has no requirement that abortion providers have admitting privileges, or even that they have any medical credentials whatsoever. In the last quarter-century, women’s health has never been enough of a concern to change that. June Medical therefore doesn’t overturn anything New Hampshire has on the books.

What will happen is that attempts to rectify New Hampshire’s situation will face an even steeper uphill battle than before.

Edited to clarify that the overturned law was “supposed to be” strictly about women’s health.

Correction: Hearing Date for Abortion Insurance Mandate 2/18

I posted an incorrect date for the upcoming hearing on SB 486-FN, a bill to require insurance plans which cover maternity benefits to provide coverage for abortion services. The hearing is Tuesday, FEBRUARY 18, not March as I originally reported. I regret my error. I have corrected my earlier post on the bill, which includes location and time for the hearing.

As luck would have it, my mistake was in a high-traffic post. If you shared it (and thank you for reading, by the way), please share this correction as well.

Bill to Mandate Abortion Coverage Gets Hearing February 18

(An earlier version of this post carried a headline saying “March 18.” The correct date is February 18.) The latest abortion bill to come to the New Hampshire legislature in 2020 is the so-called “Women’s Reproductive Health Parity Act of 2020,” SB 486-FN. The bill will have a hearing in the Senate Commerce Committee on Tuesday, February 18, at 2:15 p.m. in room 100 of the State House.

From the bill’s official analysis on its cover page: “This bill requires insurance plans which cover maternity benefits to provide coverage for emergency or elective abortion services.”

Yes, parity between maternity and abortion, as though abortion were health care. Are you an employer whose benefits to employees include health insurance? You’ll help pay for abortions if this passes. It’ll be interesting to see which organizations and companies sign up in favor of this bill at the hearing.

Private and public plans are both included. Medicaid funds originating with the federal government are not supposed to go for abortion, so the bill includes this: “If the commissioner determines that enforcement of any policy described under paragraph I may adversely affect the allocation of federal funds to New Hampshire, the commissioner may grant an exemption to the requirements of this section only to the minimum extent necessary to ensure the continued receipt of federal funds.”

Don’t let that comfort you. You’ll recall what happened the last time the federal government made a rule that threatened to affect abortion providers, don’t you? Advocates for abortion providers simply appropriated state funds to cover what the feds wouldn’t.

The members of the Commerce committee are Sens. Kevin Cavanaugh, Jon Morgan, Donna Soucy, Harold French, and Chuck Morse.