Building a Shelter: St. Gianna’s Place

Originally published at Leaven for the Loaf.

After a long search, the board of St. Gianna’s Place has made the announcement I’ve been waiting for. From Facebook:

With great joy and gratitude, we announce that St. Gianna’s Place has found a home! We signed a lease on February 11, the Feast of Our Lady of Lourdes. We will soon be opening our doors to welcome pregnant women in crisis and their babies. We are grateful to God for leading and inspiring us on this journey, and we are grateful to our supporters for making this possible.
We humbly ask for your continued prayers and support as we prepare to open our home to some of God’s most vulnerable. We are hosting a Go Fund Me event to raise money to purchase necessary items for our new home. If you would like to help, please visit https://www.gofundme.com/StGiannasPlace.
Again, thank you for your continued prayers and support.
“The secret of happiness is to live moment by moment and to thank God for what He is sending us every day in His Goodness.” St. Gianna pray for us!

How fitting that the lease was signed on the Feast of Our Lady of Lourdes, given the faith and persistence of the volunteers who have brought the project this far. Housing for pregnant and parenting women in crisis is at a premium in southern New Hampshire, and St. Gianna’s Place will be part of a solution. The home will be in Hudson, and the opening date will be announced later. Right now, the task at hand is to prepare the building for occupancy.

Please view and share the Go Fund Me page set up by St. Gianna’s Place volunteers. Their immediate goal is $1000 for basic things like linens and cleaning supplies. A modest donation can go a long way.

I recall listening to a St. Gianna’s board member a couple of years ago, describing the vision driving the project. “Our Calcutta is right here,” she told me, comparing Mother Teresa’s mission field to ours here in New Hampshire, where so many more shelter beds are needed.

The signed lease goes a long way toward bringing the vision to life.

Facts About N.H. Abortion Laws

(Note: This is based on a post I wrote for Cornerstone Action, which kindly gave me permission to re-post here.)

New York’s governor ordered buildings to be illuminated in pink lights on January 22, in celebration of state law he had just signed eliminating most limitations on abortion. Legislators in Virginia and Vermont are ready to follow suit with radically anti-life policies.

Think it couldn’t happen in New Hampshire? The grim fact is that it already has. New Hampshire is one of the most abortion-friendly states in the country. Here are the facts.

How far into pregnancy are abortions permitted in New Hampshire?

  • Abortions are legal, unrestricted, and unregulated throughout all 40 weeks of pregnancy in New Hampshire.
  • As recently as 2017 and 2018, legislators rejected bills that would have provided protection for viable preborn children.

What laws in New Hampshire affect abortion now?

  • New Hampshire has a parental notification statute. When a minor seeks abortion, she needs to notify a parent or guardian, or else use a “judicial bypass” in which a judge determines she is mature enough to make her own decision. The law calls for notification, not consent.
  • New Hampshire bans the barbaric abortion method known as partial-birth abortion or dilation-&-extraction, in which a child is delivered partway before being killed. This ban was passed in 2012.
  • As of early 2019, New Hampshire policy limits the use of Medicaid funds for abortion.
  • New Hampshire adopted a fetal homicide statute in 2017, allowing prosecutors the option of filing homicide charges against a person whose bad actions cause the death of a preborn child against the mother’s will. While not an abortion law, it was bitterly opposed by abortion advocates.

How many abortions are performed in New Hampshire annually?

  • No one knows, and that includes state lawmakers. New Hampshire does not have an abortion statistics law, despite the fact that the federal Centers for Disease Control attempts to collect abortion data. Forty-seven other states manage to collect and report such data, while protecting the anonymity and privacy of individual women obtaining abortions.
  • New Hampshire public health officials have no reliable data on the age of women seeking abortion, the stage of pregnancy at which abortions are performed, and whether women are experiencing abortion complications.

How many doctors do abortions in New Hampshire?

  • No one knows, since public health authorities do not collect any data on abortions.
  • There is no requirement that abortion providers in New Hampshire have any medical training or certification whatsoever.

Do New Hampshire state public health authorities inspect abortion facilities?

  • No, according to the New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services. From a May 19, 2013 report in the New Hampshire Sunday News: “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.’”

Who sets standards for abortion facilities?

  • The abortion providers themselves determine what standards to use. Since there is no law that providers have any medical training, those “standards” need not relate in any way to women’s health.

What’s the rate of post-abortion complications experienced by New Hampshire women?

  • No one knows, since lawmakers refuse to demand abortion statistics and public health officials decline to collect them. “Don’t ask, don’t tell” sums it up.

Does New Hampshire law protect children who survive attempted abortion?

  • No. Children who survive attempted abortion are not entitled to any more care than the abortionist wishes to provide. A bill to recognize a duty to care for such infants was defeated by the New Hampshire House in 2016.

Does New Hampshire law recognize the conscience rights of health care personnel who choose not to participate in abortion?

  • No. A bill to provide conscience protections was killed in the New Hampshire House in 2018. Health care professionals in New Hampshire can lose their jobs and be subject to professional sanctions for refusing to assist in abortions.

How did New Hampshire become such a haven for abortion providers?

  • In 1997, then-Governor (now U.S. Senator) Jeanne Shaheen signed a lawrepealing New Hampshire’s 19th-century anti-abortion laws. She did so knowing full well that no updated laws were in place. With a stroke of her pen, and with the cooperation of legislators, New Hampshire abortion regulation disappeared. So did concern for the health of women obtaining abortions. So did concern for preborn children, even moments away from birth.

It doesn’t have to be this way. You can help turn a culture of abortion into a culture that respects and nurtures life, especially in its most vulnerable stages.

  • Share the message: Knowledge is power, and many people don’t know the facts about abortion in New Hampshire.
  • Pray. Join with your faith community. A culture of prayer will lead to a culture of life.
  • Politicians bear a great deal of responsibility for New Hampshire’s abortion-friendly laws, but blaming Concord won’t help. What will help is electing representatives at all levels of government who respect the right to life, and who care about the health of pregnant women and their children. Vote for candidates who recognize that New Hampshire law relative to abortion must be changed.
  • Consider running for local or state office.
  • Work within your community to create and sustain life-affirming options for women and children at risk from abortion. Contact your local pro-life pregnancy care center to learn about practical ways you can help.

Cecile’s Legacy

This post originally appeared on DaTechGuy Blog.

The Twitterverse murmured #ThankYouCecile the other day to mark the end of Cecile Richards’s tenure leading the Planned Parenthood Federation of America. Hats off to the Babylon Bee for skewering that bit of social media hashtagging: “Woman Celebrated for Killing 3.5 Million People.”

That satirical bull’s eye came just a few days after another one from the same source: “Planned Parenthood Defends Bill Cosby: ‘Sexual Assault Is Only 3% Of What He Does’”. I wish I’d written that.

But in all seriousness, Richards is a consequential woman. It would be a mistake to pretend otherwise. Planned Parenthood has had high-profile leaders before and will have them again. What sets Richards apart are the sheer bloody numbers and her solid brass determination.

PP is now the nation’s leading abortion provider, with more than 321,384 “abortion services” provided in FY 2016 alone. In the same year, according to PP’s annual report, revenue was $1.459 billion, of which $543 million came from taxpayers.

That transfer of funds from your pocket into PP’s, on such an appalling scale, was made possible because of a false message that Cecile Richards delivered unceasingly and confidently: abortion is health care. She didn’t invent the message, but she honed it to a fine edge and wielded it like a surgeon.

She knew that quibbling over what abortion terminates wasn’t good for business. Even seeing abortion as a “right” wasn’t enough to fulfill her vision. Selling abortion as health care, as a positive good, was the message she used to elevate PP to the economic and cultural position it now holds.

The political influence, the virtual extortion of funds from taxpayers and fellow nonprofits alike (cf. the Komen breast-cancer charity), the serene composure with which she dismissed the damning videos documenting the sale of fetal body parts by some PP affiliates: all of it can be explained and defended by buying into her defining message, abortion is health care.

Politicians don’t want to support taxpayer dollars going to the nation’s largest abortion provider? (Hey, I can dream.) They’re after your health care. A pastor speaks out in defense of human life? He’s after your health care. A journalist documents commerce in fetal body parts; a court upholds an abortion regulation, however mild; peaceful pro-life witnesses pray silently outside a PP facility: what they’re really after is your health care.

Abortion is health care is a hellishly lucrative legacy for PP. It’s the message that keeps half a million of your dollars going to the nation’s leading abortion provider. No wonder Richards was rewarded with compensation in excess of half a million dollars a year.

Health care and abortion are two different things. It’s going to take a lot of time and effort for the truth to regain its rightful place. Don’t ever doubt that one person can make a difference. Look at what Cecile Richards left behind.

Volunteers Building a Safe Harbor

Reposted from Leaven for the Loaf.

“A Safe Harbor for Mother and Child.” Step by step, St. Gianna’s Place is on the way to becoming a shelter for pregnant and parenting women. Administrative details are in place: a board of directors; nonprofit tax status. Now comes the work of acquiring a house, most likely in Londonderry, New Hampshire.

St. Gianna’s is taking shape one step at a time, guided by board members and an increasing number of supporters. One of those supporters, Lynn, hosted me and several other women for coffee recently so we could meet Maria Szemplinski of the St. Gianna’s Place board.

Maria talked about the planned home and about the people whose vision has brought the project this far.  She told us about the need for more shelter beds in our area: “our Calcutta is right here,” she said, evoking Mother Teresa. She talked about other shelters in the region and how their staffs have been generous in sharing their advice and experience with the St. Gianna’s team.

So what’s next? We asked Maria what we could do.

One obvious answer: fundraising. That wasn’t what Maria led with, though. She asked us to consider what our gifts might be.

I knew some of my fellow guests slightly, and had met others for the first time that morning: a student active in pro-life work at her school, people with experience working with at-risk youth, an adoptive parent. These were women with full lives, hardly in need of another project, but all of them eager to offer practical assistance to pregnant and parenting women. I was in a room full of potential mentors and teachers.

Our hostess was meeting one of St. Gianna’s most urgent needs by welcoming us for an information session. Spreading the word is critical to attracting the material support the project needs. Maria and her fellow board members welcome opportunities to speak with any person or group who’d like to learn more.

Maria made it clear that even at this stage, the St. Gianna’s board is on the lookout for people with the skills to work with women who want educational guidance, job training, and parenting skills.

Eventually, it will be time to furnish and equip the house that will serve as the shelter. There will be ongoing needs for food, baby supplies, and building maintenance.

There will be – there is – work for everyone who wants to make the shelter happen and help it thrive.

Learn more about St. Gianna’s Place, about the woman whose life and example inspired the project, and how to contact the St. Gianna’s Place team for more information. Watch the St. Gianna’s Place Facebook page for updates. 

Open Book, April 2017: “Gosnell”

The first Wednesday of each month brings #OpenBook, a blog linkup co-hosted by My Scribbler’s Heart and CatholicMom.com with a roundup of what participating bloggers have been reading lately.

Gosnell by Ann McElhinney and Phelim McAleer is not easy to read. The style is smooth and fluent, but the topic’s a tough one: Kermit Gosnell, former abortion doctor, now serving life in prison. He killed children who survived attempts to abort them. He was found responsible for the death of a woman who came to him for an abortion and died under what passed for his “care.”

He committed terrible crimes. He is in prison now. Reporters covered the trial as it happened, once they were shamed into it by people like journalist Kirsten Powers. Three years after Gosnell’s conviction, there is now a book that sets down not only what happened, but tells more about the people who were involved. As McElhinney and McAleer tell their stories, the book becomes less about a court case and more about human beings, capable of good choices and bad ones.

I listened to McIlhinney and McAleer talk about their book at CPAC, a political conference in Washington. An odd venue, but perhaps that was the place to reach readers who might not otherwise hear of the book. McAleer was a quiet man, leaving most of the talking to his co-author (who is also his wife).

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McIlhenney was not at all quiet. She was passionate and angry as she talked about Gosnell. She was indignant. She called Gosnell “America’s biggest serial killer,” and she meant it. She made no bones about it: she had no objectivity left regarding her subject.

Familiar as I was with the Gosnell case, and as impressed as I was by McElhinney’s passion, I wondered what could be new in the book. As I read, I quickly realized that the close attention to the individuals involved in the case, starting with the investigators, set Gosnell apart from anything else I’ve read on the subject.

The authors’ perspective is unique as well, as McElhinney explains in the preface: “I never trusted or liked pro-life activists. Even at college I thought them too earnest and too religious.”

Fast forward to April 2013 and Kermit Gosnell’s trial in Philadelphia, when everything changed….[T]he images shown in the courtroom were not from activists, they were from police detectives and medical examiners and workers at the 3801 Lancaster Ave. clinic….What they said and the pictures they showed changed me. I am not the same person I was.

Continue reading

Listen to “Hush”

A few months ago, I saw an advance screening of a documentary from what seemed to me an unlikely team. The “Hush” film’s producer and director take different views of abortion. They set out not to assert one side or another. Instead, they made a film about abortion’s effect on women’s health. The director was still pro-choice when she finished making the film, but she was troubled by her findings.

“Start a healthy conversation,” as the production team says in the film’s Twitter hashtag. A good goal, and an urgent one.

“Hush” went into formal release a couple of months ago. A library near my home is hosting a screening next week. A friend reported to me tonight that she’s getting online pushback for promoting the film, from people who dispute the film’s findings – without having seen the film.

Frustrating. Dismaying. Yet I hold out hope that the protesters will come to the screening. They might be surprised to discover that “Hush” isn’t a pro-life movie per se. It’s one woman’s search for answers to her legitimate questions about what, if anything, abortion does to women besides induce the death of a preborn child (a term with which the director might well take issue).

I’m grateful to the documentary’s director, Punam Kumar Gill, for asking questions and having the courage to follow the answers wherever they took her.

I hope the protesters in my area choose to come inside and watch the film. Let the pushback wait until we’re all working with the same information. Better yet, let’s work toward that healthy conversation the filmmakers are encouraging.

Read more about “Hush” and where to find it at hushfilm.com.

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