Constitutional Amendment on Abortion Meets Strong Opposition

Woman testifies against CACR 14

(Photo Credit: Beth Scaer)

UPDATE 2/5/20 : The House Judiciary Committee voted on CACR 14 in executive session on February 5. By a margin of 18-2, the committee voted “inexpedient to legislate,” and we are overjoyed. Your overwhelming turnout opposing this poorly-crafted and objectionable amendment made a clear, compelling case and was effective beyond our expectations.

Reported by Ellen Kolb after attending House Judiciary Committee hearing 1/22/2020 on CACR 14 that would make abortion a constitutional right in the Granite State.

A proposal to enshrine abortion and other “reproductive medical decisions” by amending the New Hampshire Constitution drew strong opposition from pro-life organizations and citizens in Concord on January 22, the 47th anniversary of the Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision. More than 150 people came to the hearing on CACR 14 to make their views known to the House Judiciary Committee.

Cornerstone Action opposes CACR 14. The proposed state constitutional amendment refers to reproductive medical decisions as “inviolable and fundamental to the human condition.” Ellen Kolb, speaking for Cornerstone, told legislators, “We value the right to life of each human being from the moment of conception. That is an inherent right, not a privilege to be conferred. That is the human condition.” 

So many people attended the hearing that it was moved from the committee room to Representative’s Hall at the State House. About fifty members of the public signed up to testify aloud. All but four spoke in opposition to CACR 14.

The Judiciary Committee will vote on CACR 14 at a date yet to be determined. Watch Cornerstone’s Facebook page and weekly legislative update email for updates as they become available. Until the committee casts its vote, there is still time to contact committee members to urge them to vote “inexpedient to legislate” on CACR 14. (Note: An “inexpedient to legislate” recommendation from the committee to the full house is essentially a recommendation to kill the bill. If adopted by the house, the bill ends there.)

New Hampshire residents opposing the bill included pregnancy care center workers, a young wheelchair-bound man with Duchenne muscular dystrophy, a physician, nurses, and a pastor. There was emotional testimony against CACR 14 from women who became pro-life after their abortions and are now unwilling to see abortion enshrined in the state constitution. Jason Hennessey of New Hampshire Right to Life and Robert Dunn of the Diocese of Manchester also spoke in opposition to the measure.

Ovide Lamontagne, a New Hampshire attorney and former General Counsel at Americans United for Life, voiced legal concerns about the proposed amendment. “CACR 14 is poorly drafted, raises more concerns than the issues it appears to be addressing, and is unnecessary in order to maintain the current liberal abortion on demand laws in New Hampshire whether or not Roe v. Wade is reversed….[A]s a matter of sound policy, you should oppose CACR 14 and vote inexpedient to legislate.”

Katie Glenn is an attorney and Government Affairs Counsel for Americans United for Life in Washington, D.C., where she monitors state-level legislation throughout the country. “I have thoroughly reviewed CACR 14, and it is my opinion that it would have severe consequences for the health of women and the unborn in New Hampshire. [It] rejects the Government of New Hampshire’s legitimate interest in protecting life, and prohibits commonsense protections for women’s health from being enacted in the future….I strongly encourage this committee to oppose CACR 14 in order to protect the health and safety of women and the conscience rights of healthcare providers.”

As a constitutional amendment, CACR 14 would have to pass the House by a three-fifths vote followed by a three-fifths vote in the Senate before going to the voters on the November ballot. At least two-thirds of voters would have to approve the amendment in order for it to be adopted.

For the full text of our written testimony, see below:

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TO: House Judiciary Committee

FROM: Cornerstone Action, cornerstone@nhcornerstone.org; testimony presented by Ellen Kolb, Cornerstone communications and legislative consultant (cell: 603-321-2703)

RE: CACR 14, relating to “reproductive medical decisions”

DATE: 22 January 2020

Cornerstone Action urges you to vote inexpedient to legislate on CACR 14, an ill-advised attempt to amend the New Hampshire Constitution. The sponsors of CACR 14 seek to elevate what they call “reproductive medical decisions” to a right “inviolable and fundamental to the human condition.” 

We value the right to life of each human being from the moment of conception. That right is inherent, not conferred. That is the human condition.  

The title of the proposed amendment notwithstanding, it is fundamentally an attempt to  use the New Hampshire Constitution to shield the abortion industry. That’s reason enough to oppose CACR 14. Here are some other concerns.

  • If abortion is a “reproductive medical decision…inviolable and fundamental to the human condition,” then how do the sponsors of this measure propose to treat conscience rights, which are called “inalienable” in part I, article 4 of the state constitution? If someone who is morally opposed to abortion is called upon to assist in one or help procure one as a condition of employment, does that individual have any enforceable conscience rights?  It’s not enough to leave that outcome to the courts. We’d like to know more now, when this amendment is getting its first public hearing, about the intentions of the amendment’s supporters. Would they support the conscience rights of a worker who opposes abortion? We fear instead that CACR 14 would convey a very different message: don’t go into the health care field if you recognize that abortion is the taking of human life.
  • CACR 14 would undermine, if not eliminate, New Hampshire’s parental notification law. Right now, New Hampshire parents have a limited right to be notified of an underage child’s decision to terminate a pregnancy.  If the child’s right to abort is deemed inviolable and fundamental, even the limited right to notification will be denied to the parents. 
  • CACR 14 would lock New Hampshire into a situation that Roe v. Wade has never dictated: complete rejection of any interest in the developing human being at any point before birth. New Hampshire deserves better. Under Roe and subsequent decisions based upon it, states have been able to assert at least a limited interest in the well-being of both mother and child in the abortion decision.
  • At this time, New Hampshire has no restriction on abortion providers. Medical training is not required. CACR 14 would prevent New Hampshire from correcting that situation. 
  • Up until now, there has been at least some effort on the part of New Hampshire’s policymakers to respect their neighbors who don’t want to see state tax dollars used for abortion. But under CACR 14, would lack of public funding constitute an infringement or undue inconvenience of a fundamental right? What can the sponsors tell us about how this has worked out in other states where similar language is in effect?

CACR 14 is a step backwards: away from health care, away from conscience rights, away from recognizing the inherent value of each human life. Please vote ITL. Thank you.