NH House committee dismisses abortion-facility licensing & stats bills

The New Hampshire House Health, Human Services and Elderly Affairs committee (HHS) voted unanimously today to send an abortion statistics bill to interim study and to kill an abortion-facility licensing bill outright. The full House will vote on both bills in March.

Licensing: “I’m really insulted by this.”

Rep. Barbara French left no one in doubt about her feelings towards the licensing bill. “I’m really insulted by this. Every clinic in the state of New Hampshire is operating above and beyond.” Rep. French’s remark came just before the HHS committee voted 17-0 on an “inexpedient to legislate” motion on HB 1501. Noting for the record her credentials as a nurse for more than 50 years, she called abortion “a highly regulated medical procedure.” She recited a list of inspections to which the Feminist Health Center in Concord submits periodically, including “annual inspection by the [executive] Department of Health and Human Services.”

Before the bill’s first hearing, sponsor Kathleen Souza (R-Manchester) told me about her efforts to get information about those inspections from the Department. To my knowledge, she came up empty.

Also speaking against the bill was Rep. Thomas Sherman (D-Rye), a physician, who made the motion to kill the bill.  In HB 1501’s original hearing, he had expressed frustration at being unable to question the numerous doctors who sent written testimony in favor of licensing. Has he tried to reach any of those doctors? I don’t know, but he has had time since the original hearing to review (in his words) “the literature on abortion, all the peer-reviewed journals I could find, [and] I spoke with providers.” His conclusion: “This is considered by the medical community to be a safe procedure. All the requirements of the bill violate standard of practice. This bill is inappropriate.”

Other members of the committee were silent until it was time to vote. Then it was one “yes” after another until all seventeen members of the committee had gone on record.

Collecting abortion statistics: file and forget

The committee voted 17-0 to send an abortion statistics bill to interim study. New Hampshire is one of the very few states that refuse to monitor abortion statistics as a matter of public health: how many women obtain abortion, their ages and the gestational age of their children, how many repeat abortions. That will continue into the foreseeable future, given the absence of any will to follow up.

Interim study, you see, is usually a black hole. Now and then, when there is a knotty problem that legislators genuinely want to explore, an interim-study vote leads to hearings – but this is not one of those times. Sometimes, interim study is a good tactic for keeping options open. I heard nothing today to make me think the option of actual study will be carried out.

There was no debate and no discussion once Rep. Don LeBrun (R-Nashua) made the interim-study motion. During the vote, when the clerk came to Rep. Susan Ticehurst (D-Tamworth), an abortion supporter, there was a pause before she said, “with grave reservations, yes.” Reservations? Like a fear that a study might actually happen? It was not a time for questions, though, and the roll call went on.

The last statistics bill was HB 1680, introduced a few years ago by Rep. Marilinda Garcia (R-Salem). It passed after being amended into a simple call for a study committee. That turned out to be interim study the hard way. No study committee ever convened.

There might not even be a debate when the bills get to the House floor. Unanimous committee votes usually mean a bill goes on the consent calendar with other “non-controversial” bills.

Abortion statistics bill: it’s about time, New Hampshire

This Thursday, January 16 at 9:15 a.m. in room 205 of the Legislative Office Building in Concord (behind the State House): public hearing on HB 1502, to require the state to collect abortion statistics.

“This bill requires the department of health and human services to keep an annual statistical report of each induced termination of pregnancy performed and submit such report to the general court. The report shall also be available to the public.”

What does New Hampshire have in common with California and Maryland? It’s a state with a policy of indifference to women’s health when it comes to abortion. Forty-seven states provide some kind of abortion data to the federal Centers for Disease Control. New Hampshire doesn’t. Eight New Hampshire legislators – seven Republican, one Democrat – are ready to change that.

A couple of years ago, there was a statistics bill (2012’s HB 1680) that through legislative legerdemain was converted into a call for a study committee. There was no follow-through. Before that bill was gutted, it was opposed by abortion advocates as being yet another attempt to interfere with women’s reproductive freedom.

Remember that fact when a candidate, party, or policy group warns you that state-level legislation is eroding Roe v. Wade

HB 1502 calls on New Hampshire’s department of health and human services to collect data as suggested (not mandated) by the CDC. Here, from Abortion Surveillance – United States 2010, is the kind of information that the state could consider submitting to the CDC if HB 1502 passes.

  • Maternal age
  • Gestational age (in weeks at time of abortion)
  • Race and ethnicity of mother
  • Method of abortion
  • Marital status
  • Number of previous abortions and live births to the mother
  • Maternal residence

HB 1502 would require DHHS to prepare an annual report to the legislature, and the information would also be available to the public. New Hampshire residents would finally have something other than an abortion provider’s “3% of our services” statement to go by. How many late-term abortions are going on in New Hampshire? How many teens are having multiple abortions? How prevalent are chemical abortions? How many women come to New Hampshire from out-of-state to get abortions? Is abortion having a disproportionate impact in minority communities? Let’s get more than a hint. Let’s find out. While we’re at it, let’s find out who comes out to the committee hearing to oppose the bill.

What we would not learn under the terms of HB 1502 is how many women endure injury, illness or death as a result of abortion. It will be enough of a struggle for now in New Hampshire to get a bill that grants the public a simple right to know how many abortions are done each year.

Thursday, 9:15: will you be there?

 

 

Three indications Obamacare is NOT about to fall apart

I haven’t made a secret of the fact that I am not a fan of Obamacare. I have to admit that I take a grim pleasure in the news about the administrative foul-ups that have complicated the “rollout.”

I am skeptical that any complication or delay will lead to substantive changes in the misnamed “Affordable Care Act.” Even the current tinkering with the individual mandate doesn’t make me feel much better. The Administration’s #1 concern seems to be that the public is having trouble with the web site. What happens once the web site is up and running? ACA implementation will proceed apace. Obamacare as we know it is perfectly safe. Here are three reasons I’m not breaking out the champagne over ACA glitches.

Kathleen Sebelius is still Secretary of HHS.

As long as Secretary Sebelius holds down her Health and Human Services job, we know the Administration is not having second thoughts about Obamacare. Sebelius has been the second-biggest advocate, cheerleader, and apologist for the program since the day Nancy Pelosi brought down her gavel and jubilantly announced “The bill is passed!” President Obama and Sebelius are the faces of the ACA.

If she were to leave her post during this President’s tenure, it would look as though the ACA were a dead horse she got tired of beating. If Obama were to let Sebelius go, he’d be acknowledging substantive trouble with his pet law. As long as he keeps her, he shows confidence in the legislation.

The White House is still saying birth control is “essential to women’s health care” and is still telling Americans how to practice religious beliefs.

In a White House statement issued last month after the U.S. Supreme Court agreed to take the Hobby Lobby case, the press secretary speaking for the Administration affirmed “The health care law puts women and families in control of their health care by covering vital preventive care, like cancer screenings and birth control, free of charge [emphasis added]….The Administration has already acted to ensure no church or similar religious institution will be forced to provide contraception coverage and has made a commonsense accommodation for non-profit religious organizations that object to contraception on religious grounds.  These steps protect both women’s health and religious beliefs, and seek to ensure that women and families–not their bosses or corporate CEOs–can make personal health decisions based on their needs and their budgets.”

Consumer control of health care decisions means no co-pay? I haven’t seen any comparable White House statement about how awful it is that bosses or corporate CEOs make personal health decisions for families by denying 100% coverage of diabetes regulation – which is after all preventive in a logical if not political sense, given how uncontrolled diabetes destroys health. If giving women and families full control of health decisions means not having any co-pays for birth control, how can ANY co-pay stand under law?

So suppression of fertility is still the same thing as cancer screening in the eyes of the Obama Administration. Women’s fertility, that is. Once that falsehood is abandoned by the President and a majority in Congress, Obamacare will lose one of its essential supports.

The White House continues to say that “commensense accommodation” has rendered all religious challenges to the ACA moot. More than eighty pending lawsuits say otherwise. “Religious organizations” as defined by the Administration are accommodated. Individuals holding to the same religious tenets as those organizations are not. That’s the trouble with the HHS mandate.

Republicans in Congress have not as a majority body expended political capital to challenge the mandate, and Democrats are only too happy to elevate contraception above the Constitution. That means the HHS mandate will stand, unless the Supreme Court throws it out. As long as the mandate stands, so does Obamacare.

Lack of cybersecurity hasn’t brought Obamacare to a screeching halt.

There’s no one left in a Cabinet-level Administration post who can say with a straight face that the information Americans enter into a computer in order to sign up for the ACA is secure. Privacy is not a serious consideration within the law, nor has it ever been. Once that changes, I’ll know Obamacare is in trouble – because that will mean a full stop to the law while the technical side is re-developed.

John Fund in a recent column summarized how HHS addressed security concerns in Obamacare’s early days, based on the Federal Register from March 27, 2012: “At that meeting, two commenters asked HHS to ensure the exchanges would promptly notify affected enrollees in the event of a data breach or unauthorized access to the exchange’s databases. One commenter suggested that a full investigation be launched each time such a breach occurred, with the goal of holding hackers legally and financially accountable for breaking into the website. According to a report by the group Watchdog.org, HHS responded: ‘We do not plan to include the specific notification procedures in the final rule. Consistent with this approach, we do not include specific policies for investigation of data breaches in this final rule.’ In other words, the government doesn’t have to tell you about a security breach unless it decides it wants to — despite the fact that private companies are required to publicly disclose any incidents. State laws also require many of the 14 state-run insurance exchanges to disclose such information, but no such law exists for the federally run exchange, which 36 states rely upon.”

Imagine a private company being so cavalier about data breaches. A recent breach at Target stores resulted in quick detection and immediate efforts to warn consumers. If the company had been any slower to react, Target’s CEO would be getting grilled in Washington right now, with cameras rolling and politicians thundering about the evils of Big Business. Corporate heads would roll. The same behavior in a government agency doesn’t bring forth quite the same reaction.

And by the way …

Don’t confuse ACA implementation with health care. What kind of metric have you heard of that HHS might use to measure outcomes from ACA? Will we know in five years how many people have coverage, compared to today?

Probably not. The baseline the government will use to measure coverage will probably be how many people had ACA-compliant policies before the ACA was in place. Wonderful. We’ll have a meaningless statistic that will keep us in the dark about the only health-coverage question that ought to matter to HHS: how many Americans are getting CARE? Not insurance coverage, but actual care. Not how many dollars we’re spending on Medicaid and insurance subsidies, but how many people need health care and aren’t getting it.

Will Americans be healthier in five years, or will they just be filling out different forms at their clinics?

Obamacare seems to be set up to keep that information obscured. Insurance equals care, goes the narrative, and actual care is not what we’re tracking here.

The rumors of Obamacare’s death are greatly exaggerated, it seems to me. When Sebelius is out, the HHS mandate is gone, and web site security becomes a priority, I might take a different view. Until then, regardless of controversies, Obamacare is entrenched.

“Dear Clinic Escort,” by Catherine Adair

Catherine Adair
Catherine Adair

I’m reblogging this from The Harvest is Abundant, written by Catherine Adair, who has had an abortion herself and has worked for Planned Parenthood in its Boston facility. Now defending life, she has a message for the “escorts” outside abortion offices. She gives us all food for thought. The post is from today, 28 May 2013.

Dear Clinic Escort,

Today I saw you, with your bright orange vest emblazoned with ESCORT on the front and back. You refused to make eye contact with me. I saw your gritty determination as you grabbed arms with that young woman and whispered in her ear, “Ignore them,” you said, “Don’t look at them, they are here to intimidate you, to scare you. I’ll keep you safe, don’t worry.” You walked quickly, head up, steel in your eyes, never letting up your grip on her arm. Her head was down, following your lead, mutely keeping up with your fast trot to the abortionist.

You ushered her in through the doors and soon emerged, alone, smiling at us triumphantly, a glimmer of malice in your eye, a smirk of arrogance and joy at having bested us – another woman you saved from the anti-choice fanatics. You rejoin the other escorts, laughing and joking, until the next car pulls up, and your face resumes the mask of the militant soldier, ready to do battle for women’s reproductive rights.

As I watched you I wondered, have you ever been inside the clinic? Have you ever been in the waiting room, filled with the silence of trepidation and fear? Have you listened to the stifled tears?

Have you ever been in the counseling room? This place, where instead of asking questions and listening, the worker masks the truth, or outright lies about the third life in the room, the life growing inside the woman’s womb? Have you seen her sad and scared eyes? Have you asked her why she is there? Do you know if she is being pressured or forced into this abortion, if she is safe at home…all the questions she won’t be asked inside the clinic? Does she know about all of the help available to her if she keeps the baby? Does she know how many couples would love to adopt her baby?

My dear Clinic Escort, have you been there for the ultrasound, where you can see the fully formed baby kicking its arms and legs? Have you heard the worker tell her it is just a bunch of cells? A blob? A product of conception? Have you been with her, holding her hand as she screams in pain, ignored by a doctor who doesn’t even know her name? Have you heard the suction machine, watch as the blood, tissue, and body parts flow from her body into a cold jar? Have you heard the sound of the currette scraping her uterus? Have you seen the body parts – an arm, a leg, a piece of a rib cage, poured into a baggie as though it were scraps of meat?

Have you sat with her in the recovery room as she stares off into space, desperate to get away from this place so she never has to think of it again? Have you been with her through the depression and the anxiety that plague her after the abortion? The breakup of her relationship? Have you helped her through her drug addiction, her binge drinking? Have you been there when she is unable to bond with her children? When her marriage falls apart? Will you be there when she attempts suicide? Will you be at her funeral when she succeeds?

Dear Clinic Escort, look into my eyes. They have seen things you could never imagine. Things that have made me scream in the middle of the night. Things that are never discussed in the intellectualized, feminist world of abortion rights. Because while you see a job well done when you usher her through those doors, her nightmare is just beginning.

NH HHS official: “In New Hampshire, there is no such thing as an abortion clinic”

Sunday paper, front page, above the fold: good old-fashioned public-service reporting can’t get better placement than that. The May 19 New Hampshire Sunday News featured an article, credited to “staff report,” headlined “Officials say NH abortion sites need state scrutiny.”

Why aren’t the sites getting the scrutiny now? Because they are classified as physician offices. Here is a quote from the article, giving us the information straight from the New Hampshire department responsible for overseeing public health.

“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.'”

Click on the link to the Sunday News article to read the responses from New Hampshire’s abortion providers, who have clearly not taken the Gosnell case to heart except as an opportunity to circle the wagons. Remarkably, the public policy director of Planned Parenthood of Northern New England gave the Sunday News nothing beyond the formal post-Gosnell statement issued by the national PP office. No improvisation allowed on this one, apparently.

Words like “exempt” and “no jurisdiction” should not apply to any facility where abortions are performed. How did New Hampshire policy get to this point?

  • Enough legislators and over the years bought the claim that abortion is “health care,” no different from cancer screenings or annual checkups.
  • Enough legislators have bought the claim that “choice” and “women’s health” are synonymous.
  • Abortion advocates in New Hampshire have done a good job of building coalitions fearful of losing Roe, ensuring that all attempts at regulating the industry are met with public opposition from medical and pastoral professionals as well as abortion-facility clients.
  • Arising from and reinforcing all these factors is New Hampshire’s refusal to demand full and accurate reporting of adverse abortion outcomes for women. Without accurate and objective statistical information, abortion providers can get away with saying that there is no evidence that New Hampshire women are at risk when they seek abortion.

None of these factors takes into consideration the medical and legal status of the fetus. One need not accept fetal personhood to see that abortion providers in New Hampshire have an unjustifiably privileged status under law. Why should such providers escape the regulations that govern dialysis or medical labs or end-of-life care? It makes no sense from the point of women’s health. Put an abstract “right” to abortion ahead of concern for actual women, though, and the current situation makes a weird sort of sense.

References to physicians’ or doctors’ offices are ironic in this context. There is no restriction in New Hampshire on who may perform abortions, with or without medical training. The “reputable” abortion providers who employ physicians and nurse-practitioners are silent on whether they would support legislation to change that.

It depends on which has the higher priority: women’s health, or unrestricted access to abortion.

One also wonders where the HHS representative quoted by the Sunday News got the information that most abortions in New Hampshire are performed in doctors’ offices. That would indicate that someone is keeping track. In fact, no one is.

And finally, that’s news.