New Hampshire State Representative Warren Groen’s bill to defund abortion-friendly family planning agencies was defeated on Feb. 18, but not before he gave a Wilberforce-inspired speech that won a few unexpected colleagues over to his side. You can watch it here.
“They killed my bill yesterday, but I was able to be the watchman on the wall and tell them this is what you are doing and this is why it is wrong,” said Rep. Groen, R- Rochester. “I knew my speech wouldn’t change votes, but actually it did. I got 20 more votes than I thought I would and I was surprised by some of the people who voted with me.”
The vote was 216 to 142, with a number of his pro life colleagues absent. The bill also suffered due to lack of support from the leadership of his own party, said the four-term Representative.
As he lives out his faith in public office, Rep. Groen believes he is currently being tested. The defunding bill and a separate “conscience bill” he introduced have made him the target of much criticism from the media, the public, and some fellow Lawmakers.
The “conscience bill,” which also was killed Feb. 18, would have allowed doctors, nurses, pharmacists and other professionals, to opt out of any medical procedure or decline to dispense any drug such as the abortion-inducing RU-486, because of personal convictions. New Hampshire is one of three states in the nation that does not have such a law on the books.
In defending the defunding bill in a speech on the floor, Rep. Groen brought up William Wilberforce, a politician and leading abolitionist in England, who believed in social change through Christianity. Wilberforce fought for 26 years before seeing slavery eliminated in 1833, just days before he died.
Rep. Groen compared abortion to slavery, pointing out that current abortion law allows one person to own another.
When a father refuses to support his child he is called a dead-beat dad and the full force of the legal system forces him to fulfill his responsibilities, he said. “But when a mother refuses to not participate in the support of her child, she is called pro choice.
“And if the father objects to the death of his child, he has no rights and the full weight of the legal system is brought to bear on behalf of the mother so she can kill that child. Because the mother owns the child, the father has no rights as to whether the child will live or die.
“Abortion is all about ownership of the baby and that is why it is the same as slavery,” he said.
While he swayed some colleagues to his side, the battle was contentious. Most pro-life colleagues stood with him, but Rep. Groen was surprised to find a few personal friends, professing Christians, support funding family planning clinics that recommend or offer abortions.
“A couple of friendships are being tested,” he said. “One of my friends who made a big deal about his strong Catholic faith came out against me and took a below-the-belt whack. I will meet with him and see what happened. I will either have a fence to mend or a bridge to burn.”
Such debates, especially among Christian lawmakers, is why Rep. Groen believes Bible studies to Public Servants, like the one he is sponsoring in New Hampshire, are important to the nation because they examine issues from biblical perspectives.
And members of the Republican leadership have begun to distance themselves from Rep. Groen after he blamed them in a local newspaper story for the bills not passing. Not speaking to the press might have been better for the relationship, but then the public would not have understood where the problem was, he said.
“I was between a rock and a hard place so I just thought I will put the truth out there and let the chips fall where they may.”
Taking firm stands on issues of consequence will make him unpopular and that is never easy, but it’s important for Christians to stand up for what they believe is morally right, Rep. Groen said.
“I would much rather have people cheer and clap rather than boo and hiss at a speech I’m making, and I’d rather not be trashed in the media, but that is okay because I know the end of the story.” Rep. Groen said. “I’m kind of hooked into God’s promise for eternal life. And so things that happen to me now are of pretty small consequence in the big picture. I wear that criticism as a badge of honor.
“If you look ahead once in a while you wonder what is going on, but when you look backwards, and see what the Lord has been doing, it is abundantly clear. And that gives me the faith to look ahead knowing that whatever does come my way, He’s in it.”