EMILY’s List makes its Choice for N.H. Governor: Molly Kelly

Fresh off a victory by its preferred candidate in the Manchester mayoral election, EMILY’s List has announced that it is throwing its endorsement and cash into the New Hampshire governor’s race in support of Molly Kelly.

Kelly is a Democrat and a former state senator from Keene (district 10). I was in the Senate gallery on several occasions as she spoke against fetal homicide legislation and in favor of the buffer zone law.

Her formal statement in response to the EMILY’s List endorsement, as reported by WMUR’s John DiStaso, includes the candid if clichéd declaration “I trust women to make their own health care decisions,” thereby smoothly assuming that abortion is health care – an assertion that the Republican incumbent has shown no inclination to dispute. Kelly adds, “As governor, I will defend funding for Planned Parenthood.” Well, so does the Republican incumbent governor, even though he strayed off the PP script once as Executive Councilor. That incumbent has already indicated that he’s running for re-election.

Kelly entered the Senate after winning a 2006 election over former Senate president Tom Eaton, who lost to her again in 2008 and 2010. In 2012, she won re-election by a 2-1 margin over her Republican challenger. In 2014, Republicans didn’t bother to put up a candidate against her. She retired after that term, and the district 10 state senate seat is now held by Democrat Jay Kahn.

N.H. House Votes Approaching

Update: a heavy House agenda and a session-shortening snowstorm have moved the votes on these bills to Wednesday, March 21, 2018. This will be the second delay for the vote. The deadline for the House to act on the bill is close of the business day on March 22.

Tuesday, March 6, begins what might be a three-day session for the New Hampshire House. The representatives have an agenda that’s about 150 pages long. And yes, there’s a snowstorm in the forecast, as if the schedule weren’t already dicey enough.

Among the bills to be voted on are HB 1680, the Viable Fetus Protection Act; HB 1787, conscience rights for medical professionals; HB 1707, abortion information/informed consent; HB 1721, a ban on coerced abortions.

No, it’s not too late to email your reps. Many of them have smartphones that they use to to check email and text messages during the House session.

Today’s civics lesson: Find your state representatives’ email address via this link on the General Court (legislature) web site. There are phone numbers for each rep as well; some are cell numbers and some are landlines. If you recognize a cell number, use it for a text message Tuesday morning, March 6. Don’t call at unsocial hours (some people have to be reminded of that).

Send a separate message for each bill. In an email, pack the basic message into the subject line in case that’s all the rep has time to read. When writing to your own district’s reps, be sure to mention your town. A subject line might be “Yes on HB 1680, from a [town name] resident.” Keep the message short and courteous (again, some people need to be reminded; present company excepted, I’m sure).

I’ll be monitoring the House session online, and you can, too, if you’re so inclined. Look for the Streaming Media link on the General Court web site.

But Wait, There’s More

[Update, 2 p.m.: According to a source present at the hearing, the committee voted “inexpedient to legislate” on this bill immediately after the hearing. The bill is likely to go to the full House on February 7.]

[Edited 1/24/18 to clarify the distinction between parental consent and notification.]

Just when you think you’re on top of all the life-issue bills in Concord, something else turns up. Comes now a measure that would nullify the parental notification law for abortion – and would eliminate the need for parental consent for cosmetic surgery, setting a broken bone, or anything else that health care professionals consider “treatment” – for minors 16 years of age and older. HB 1503 will be heard Wednesday, January 24, at 10 a.m. at the House Health, Human Services and Elderly Affairs (HHS) Committee, room 205 of the Legislative Office Building (LOB) in Concord.

The hearing is open to the public, and comments may be emailed to the committee at HHSEA@leg.state.nh.us.

HB 1503 is sponsored by Rep. Caleb Dyer (L-Pelham).

“A health care provider shall obtain the independent consent of any minor 16 years of age or older who undergoes any elective or non-elective medical procedure. For the purposes of this subdivision, “health care provider” means any person, corporation, facility, or institution either licensed by this state or otherwise lawfully providing health care services….This act shall take effect 60 days after its passage.”

New Hampshire’s parental notification law for abortion would be effectively nullified by HB 1503. The judicial-bypass provision of that law would be moot with the passage of a law giving 16- and 17-year-olds the authority to provide consent on their own.

The law doesn’t single out abortion. Nor does it explain just where parents would fit in at all: would a parent be financially responsible for procedures to which a minor child consents?

Whatever the sponsor’s intent, he has added another item to my watch list.

 


A few other hearings of note, all on January 31, 2018 (Wednesday):

  • HB 1787, relative to conscience rights for medical professionals, House HHS, 1:15 p.m., room 205 LOB
  • HB 1680, relative to abortions after viability, House Judiciary Committee, 10:00 a.m., room 208 LOB.
  • HB 1721, relative to coerced abortions.

Not yet scheduled: SB 490, establishing a committee to “study” end-of-life issues.

Trust Women, You Say? Start Here

A New Hampshire legislative committee had a hearing this week on a proposal for a bill on informed consent for abortion. I was only able to stay for the first hour, by which time the room was still filled to capacity with people anxious to go on record.

I signed the blue sheet familiar to Legislative Office Building regulars, noting that I was in favor of the bill and did not wish to speak. By the time my hour at the hearing was up, there was plenty I wished to speak about.

Anyone can read the text of HB 1707. In summary, the bill sets up requirements for information abortion providers need to give an abortion-minded woman, and it sets up a 24-hour reflection period between the time a woman receives the information and has the abortion or takes the abortion prescription. The 24-hour provision would be waived in cases of medical emergency.

It also gives a woman the right to know 24 hours in advance who’s going to be performing the abortion.

Last time I checked, roughly two dozen states had reflection periods in effect for abortion, ranging from 18 to 72 hours, as part of informed consent for abortion. Even in Texas, some of whose laws were struck down in the Hellerstadt case that established women’s right to substandard medical care, a 24-hour waiting period is on the books. Such laws, properly drafted, have been consistent with Roe for a long time now. This is not groundbreaking healthcare policy. But this is New Hampshire, as Gosnell-friendly a place as one could find, and HB 1707 faces an uphill battle.

One provision of the bill that apparently shocked a committee member – a physician, as it happens – says that no abortion provider gets paid before the woman has had the 24 hours to review the information about the procedure. “Not even a co-pay?” he enquired of one of the bill’s co-sponsors.

That’s right. Not even a co-pay, if the bill means what its plain language says.

As the legislator-physician asked about the co-pay, I thought of Catherine Adair‘s description of her work at Planned Parenthood in Boston: “The first thing – the first thing – that happens in an abortion clinic is the money changes hands. You’re not getting anywhere until you pay for that abortion.”

Another physician, who comes faithfully to every hearing on every bill he perceives as threatening Roe v. Wade, was present to tell the committee, “I’m listening to a lot of people [at the hearing] who don’t trust women and don’t trust the medical system.”

Trust women. Makes as much sense as trust men. Which ones? To do what? What about the three women who co-sponsored HB 1707? What about me?

I’ll give him full marks for speculating about not trusting the medical system, though. I have tremendous respect for the technical skills of health care professionals, and the potential such people have to make the world a better place. There are individual providers who have earned my trust. But trust a “system” with my health? Trust the “system” that has endorsed a public policy that says women are inherently broken and need to be fixed? Trust people for whom abortion – and assisted suicide, for that matter – are considered “health care”?

No.

More from the doctor: rates of pregnancy terminations “have dropped dramatically.” Not by New Hampshire’s measure, since New Hampshire does not collect abortion statistics, which this doctor knows perfectly well.

I heard in that hour more than a few deferential remarks about health care professionals who do abortions. As I expected, I heard criticism that the bill refers to abortion providers as “physicians,” which leaves out the nurse-practitioners who do the job.

In that first hour, no one – nary a sponsor, committee member, or member of the public – mentioned the fact that New Hampshire has no restriction on who may perform abortions. There is no requirement for medical background or training or certification.

If anyone on the committee wishes to change that, HB 1707 provides the opportunity. The committee could amend it to add nurse-practitioners. Then again, perhaps a majority of committee members prefer the status quo, and all the talk about how abortions are safely performed by medical personnel is so much sand in our eyes.

The bill is silent on certification and licensing of abortion facilities, but testimony and committee questions brought it up anyway. Maybe the committee members got the information they needed from someone who spoke after I left, but I’m going to put this in writing and send it to the committee anyway: this is from a New Hampshire Sunday News article from May 19, 2013 (reported in an earlier post), written in the wake of the Kermit Gosnell trial:

“Kris Neilsen, communications director for the state Department of Health and Human Services, explained in an email that abortion clinics like Planned Parenthood and the Concord Feminist Health Center are exempt from state licensing and inspection requirements because they are considered physician offices. Twenty-three health care providers such as hospitals, hospices, nursing homes, and dialysis centers are licensed by the state, but not abortion clinics. ‘In New Hampshire, there is no such thing as an abortion clinic – the majority of abortions are done in doctors offices … and doctors’ offices are exempt from licensure under RSA 151:2 II,’ Neilsen said. ‘Because they are exempt, we have no jurisdiction over them, and neither does anyone else.'”

The House Health, Human Services and Elderly Affairs committee will vote on the bill within a few weeks.

N.H. Informed Consent Bill Hearing Scheduled for Jan. 17

HB 1707 will have a hearing before the New Hampshire House Health, Human Services and Elderly Affairs committee on January 17 at 11:00 a.m. in room 205 of the Legislative Office Building in Concord. This Abortion Information Act requires a physician who performs an abortion, or the referring physician, to provide the pregnant woman with certain information at least 24 hours prior to the abortion, and to obtain her consent that she has received such information.

Among the information to which a woman would be entitled 24 hours in advance is to the name of the person performing the abortion or prescribing the drug for a chemical abortion. Not a face-to-face meeting, but a name.

A woman would be entitled to written information 24 hours in advance, which she need not read; all she’d sign for is confirmation that she received the written material. No reflection period would be imposed in case of medical emergency. Some of the information to which women would be entitled under HB 1707:

Medically-accurate information including a description of the proposed abortion method; known risks associated with the procedure or medication; known risks of carrying the pregnancy to term; and abortion alternatives.

Information on medical assistance benefits may be available for prenatal care, childbirth, and neonatal care.

Notification that the father of the child is liable to assist with child support; this information may be omitted if the pregnancy resulted from rape or incest.

A reminder that she is free to withdraw consent to the abortion at any time.

 

Furthermore, no abortion provider could take payment until the end of the 24-hour reflection period.

The bill refers to “physicians” as the ones performing abortions, which will annoy the nurse practitioners for whom abortion is within scope of practice. So let someone on the committee propose an amendment to expand the provider list, if that’s a concern. Under current law, or lack thereof, there is no restriction on who may perform abortions; no medical training whatsoever is required. Maybe that’s OK with the bill’s opponents.

Sponsors: Reps. Jeanine Notter (R-Merrimack), Victoria Sullivan (R-Manchester), Kevin Verville (R-Deerfield), Kathleen Souza (R-Manchester)

To express your view: email the Committee (HHSEA@leg.state.nh.us) or attend the hearing (room 205 of the LOB, a block behind the State House). If you attend, options are to speak about the bill (fill out a pink card near the entrance to the hearing room), submit written testimony (either email it, or bring 20 hard copies to distribute to committee members), or simply sign in on the sheet that should be on the end of the committee table nearest the entrance to the hearing room.

After the initial hearing, the committee chairman might name a subcommittee to examine the bill further, or the committee could vote on the bill within a few weeks. I’ll keep you posted.