For those who view abortion as murder, the fight has just begun

  • The Concord Feminist Health Center held a Celebration of Women and Choice Rally in reaction to a yearly anti-abortion rights rally and march organized by the New Hampshire Right to Life group on Saturday, Jan. 17, 2015. ELIZABETH FRANTZ

  • Anti-abortion advocates walk past the Equality Health Center during the annual March For Life in Concord on Saturday, Jan. 13, 2018. Pro-abortion rights advocates met the march with a counter rally. (ELIZABETH FRANTZ / Monitor staff) Elizabeth Frantz

  • Anti-abortion advocates walk past the Equality Health Center during the annual March For Life in Concord on Saturday, Jan. 13, 2018. Pro-abortion rights advocates met the march with a counter rally. (ELIZABETH FRANTZ / Monitor staff) Elizabeth Frantz

  • New Hampshire Right to Life’s annual rally took place in front of the State House in Concord on Saturday, Jan. 14, 2017. Anti-abortion advocates then participated in a March For Life around the Equality Health Center on S. Main Street. (ELIZABETH FRANTZ / Monitor staff) Elizabeth Frantz

  • Pro-abortion rights advocates rally and chant on the corner of Fayette and South Main streets near the Equality Health Center as a steady stream of about 400 anti-abortion advocates walk by while praying during counter protests in downtown Concord on Saturday, Jan. 14, 2017. (ELIZABETH FRANTZ / Monitor staff) Elizabeth Frantz

Monitor staff
Published: 9/9/2022 3:40:56 PM

The U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to send abortion right back to the states meant one thing for Jason Hennessey – his work was far from over.

It’s become a common refrain since the landmark ruling in June, as Democrats vowed to protect abortion rights across the country. But unlike abortion advocates, Hennessey, views the issue from a different angle. As the president of New Hampshire Right to Life, he wants to see New Hampshire further limit abortion for one simple reason – he views it as murder.

“Well, obviously, we’re very happy for the country as a whole. Now it’s no longer an American genocide, it’s now a New Hampshire genocide,” Hennessey said. “So it puts the onus now on New Hampshire to figure out how we are going to protect the most innocent people.”

His pro-life passion was sparked during a failed run for local office in the mid-2000s when he was asked where he stood on the issue. Having not thought much about it before, he said prayed on it and soon after found his calling.

Following the Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization decision on June 24, Gov. Chris Sununu assured voters that no further changes would be made to New Hampshire’s abortion laws.

Hennessey couldn’t disagree more.

N.H. Right to Life aims to be heard, as it always has, through protests, outreach to legislators and their own Political Action Committee.

 “I think we’re going to continue doing what we’ve always done, which is helping people to see the value of the unborn person,” said Hennessey, who joined New Hampshire Right to Life in 2009. “I think about us very similarly to the abolitionists back in the slavery times because the abolitionists were primarily volunteers. And their goal was to help others to understand the human oppression that was taking place in this country at that time. Our goals are very similar.”

The organization already has a list of victories. It successfully lobbied for SB 66, a fetal homicide bill enacted in 2017 that includes criminal penalties for anyone who causes the death of an unborn baby past 20 weeks of gestation. And in 2011, the group supported the successful passing of a parental notification law for anybody under 18 seeking an abortion.

The group also supported the Fetal Life Protection Act, which banned abortion after 24 weeks in the Granite State beginning in 2022. Sununu signed that into law as part of the state budget process.

More bills will be coming this legislative session.

State Rep. Kurt Wuelper expects much of the same: slow change. As the chairman of the Pro-Life Caucus in the New Hampshire House, he has sought to limit abortions in the state throughout his four terms in office.

“I believe that the caucus should pursue similar paths to what we have been pursuing. That is we make incremental changes to strengthen the position that we have to protect more lives,” said the four-term representative from Strafford County. “But I don’t expect anything dramatic.”

Plenty of variables are in play before the dust settles, though. For one, the November midterm elections will bring new representatives to the House. That turnover will shape what abortion bills are introduced and how restrictive or expansive they might be.

Once the pro-life caucus gathers anew, the exact picture of the legislative landscape will become much clearer.

“The way you win political issues is not by shooting for the moon,” Wuelper said. “The way you win political issues is gradually persuading more and more people to see the rightness of your cause. And the way we do that is by little things. We’re going to push a lot of the same things that we have before.”

Several failed bills from the past legislative session will likely resurface come January. Among those is a bill that would allow the biological father of an “unborn child” to petition the court against the mother having an abortion.

HB 1654, which Wuelper co-sponsored, aimed to create an annual report to track the number of abortions in the state. The bill was removed from the consent calendar in March 2022 but is likely to return.

“Everybody has their priorities, and for me, the most important thing is life,” said Wuelper, who is the vice president of N.H. Right to Life. “And I got heavily involved in this for that reason, and by the time I was retired, I felt the desire to go into the House. I wanted to do that because I thought I could do more for the pro-life movement in the House than I could as president of New Hampshire Right to Life.”

Wuelper has been pushing this message at a time when polls say 61% of the United States supports legal abortion in all or most cases, according to Pew Research Center. For him though, that figure doesn’t paint the full picture.

“You have to understand that polling is an art and particularly when it comes to issues that are not well understood, and abortion is one of those. It’s truly an art,” Wuelper said. “It depends on how you ask the questions, which formulate the response of responders.”

Public opinion changes when looking at abortions by trimester. According to Newsweek, a June 2021 poll showed 80% of Americans do not support third-trimester abortions (24 weeks to birth), while 61% of Americans are in favor of legal abortion in the first trimester (conception to 12 weeks).

National statistics show almost 93% of abortions in 2019 took place when the woman was equal to or less than 13 weeks pregnant, according to CDC data. An additional 6.2% were performed between 14 and 20 weeks, and less than 1% of all abortions occurred after 21 weeks of pregnancy. Of the late-term abortions that did take place, almost all are due to maternal life endangerment or a fatal fetal anomaly.

But for Wuelper, those timelines don’t matter.

“There’s no reason why the mother’s choice should trump that baby’s right to live. It’s already alive, just deliver it and give it to somebody else,” he said. “And this is our job in the pro-life movement now – to persuade people that this flaw in their thinking is trying to draw a line at an arbitrary point in time. So that’s what the 24 weeks does. That’s what 20 weeks does. That’s what 15 weeks does. Yeah, they’re just arbitrary numbers. We think that line should be drawn away much earlier than a lot of people in our country. And that’s what we work for.”

Another criticism Wuelper and Hennessey face stems from both being outspoken males in what the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists deems a women’s health care issue.

They see it differently.

“The primary function of government is to preserve human rights. If you don’t have the right to life, then none of the other rights really matter,” said Hennessey. “And I would say that the slave owners made the same argument. They said, ‘Oh, why should you northerners have anything to say about our peculiar institution?’ If this were just about an individual person, I would probably agree that the government should stay out. But in this case, you have two people, and one of them can’t speak for themselves.”

Wuelper believes the “abortion industry” has twisted the issue, persuading the public that it is about women’s rights rather than the unborn’s right to life. Wuelper noted that unborn children are legally able to inherit an estate, something he sees as a building block to protecting their established rights.

“When there’s DNA, that human being has the inalienable right to life. And if we can persuade majorities of people that this is the way we should go, then it should go back as far as it can,” Wuelper said. “But to do that, you have to consider all these ramifications. What Roe v. Wade did is it gave us a 50-year hiatus in thinking and talking about it, so we just have to work these things out. And it will take time and a lot of discussion. But that’s a good thing.”




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