Bill to free Justina Pelletier - making waves in Mass. Legislature! (update)
The bill to free Justina Pelletier from the Massachusetts state custody back to her parents, HD 4212, written by MassResistance and filed on April 4, is making waves in the State House!
It's been quite a week. Your calls and emails to the Massachusetts State House are definitely having an effect, many in that building have told us. And not just the calls from Massachusetts. Lots of outrage has come from places like Florida, California, and Indiana. On the other hand, we've been shocked by the hostility toward this bill from many House Republicans.
|Left: Before being taken by the state, Justina was very athletic. Below: After being taken by the state, she's confined to a wheelchair.
On Tuesday the MassResistance office got a call from Lou Pelletier, Justina's father (shown in photo above right). He thanked us for writing the bill and told us how grateful he was that we were fighting for him. He was calling from the Washington, DC offices of US Rep. Steve Stockman (R-Texas) who is filing national legislation to deal with this problem across the country. Congressman Stockman -- who was our banquet speaker in 2011 -- also thanked us. This bill is on conservative websites everywhere. It has definitely reverberated across the country!
Direct action to get Justina home
As we've also seen, there is a lot of activity on Justina's behalf by well-meaning groups around the country, including lawsuits, rallies, resolutions, calls for investigations, prayer vigils, national media appearances and lots of local talk show chatter. That is all very good to keep this issue alive.
But this bill is the avenue that leads to direct action and getting Justina home fast. It focuses the most direct pressure on politicians. It is simple and uncomplicated. It is something that everyone can participate in. And it certainly is getting the attention of the people in that building! The pressure needs to continue. We learned that years ago when we were known as Parents' Rights Coalition.
Can we still get this passed -- and get Justina home -- by Easter, which is the end of next week? It's still theoretically possible, but given the State House schedule this process may have to stretch a few days more. Nevertheless, we must drive this in high gear: Justina's health is in real danger. This can't be allowed to linger.
|The battlefield will be here between now when they release Justina|
Unexpected hostility by House Republicans
We were not prepared for the outpouring of hostility -- and even anger -- directed at us by many House Republicans regarding this bill. Several Reps and staff members called our office and reprimanded us. Supporters of the bill were referred to as "right-wing nuts" (by Republicans!) and we were told that we were "causing trouble" and exercising "bad strategy".
They also said we should support their resolution instead. Last month several establishment Republicans signed on to a "resolution" that they're seeking to get passed by the House. The resolution, HD 4157, has similar introductory language to our bill, but would be completely different in effect (or lack of effect!). It simply announces that the House members "strongly encourage" the DCF to release Justina! With all due respect, this does not sound like bold action to us. It could be easily ignored. In contrast, bill HD 4212 orders the Commonwealth to release Justina to the custody of her parents.
Nevertheless, that is what the GOP establishment is pushing instead of HD 4214.
The House Minority Leader called our office and told us that bill HD 4212 violates the "separation of powers" (we strongly disagree) and that the wording is too unconventional (though it could certainly be changed if necessary during the process). He said that HD 4214 is just a "media stunt" and that we need to stay out of this because people are trying to make a deal between the Mass. DCF and the Connecticut version of DCF. We told him we just want Justina freed to her parents because she could die while in DCF custody. But he stood his ground.
Rep. Ryan Fattman's office called us and said that the bill is "illegal and unethical" and that he definitely wouldn't support it. A few Reps told us we should not file the bill because they are "trying to work though the Governor" instead. All in all, we actually got better responses from Democrats, though most of them were simply noncommittal.
To be sure, that was not unanimous in the GOP camp. Some Republican Reps told us that they supported the bill and would definitely vote for it.
We've also been disappointed that other RINO-type Massachusetts pro-family groups (and you know who they are) have so far refused to support the bill, and won't even mention it.
And certain Boston conservative talk show hosts (e.g., Jeff Kuhner and Michael Graham, who have both spent a lot of air time on Justina) have both so far refused to even discuss HD 4214 despite numerous attempts to get them to. Both have ties to the Republican establishment so it's not completely surprising, but it's still very disappointing. We would encourage everyone to call their daily shows and get them to answer on this. (More info here and on www.votecorevalues.org.)
Lessons learned this week brings change of strategy
Dealing with State House politicians is always, well, interesting. It became evident that given the unique nature of this situation, our normal strategy -- getting as many Reps as possible on board quickly -- is flawed. Instead, we need to concentrate on a few key players who can get this done.
On paper, of course, a so-called "late-filed" bill like this is nearly impossible to pass at all. It has to start in the Rules Committee, then get through one or two others, before it finally sees the light of day. But as we've seen many times, if there is the political will a late-filed bill can get filed and passed in one day.
Even on normal days, many Reps simply vote the way they're told to. But with something as unusual and dramatic as HD 4212, most Reps get scared and confused if they don't see support coming from the leadership.
Our efforts to engage Republicans were not a productive use of energy. Being a small though often friendly minority, the Republicans in the State House are rarely a factor in what gets passed. (In our recollection, the last major Republican sponsored legislation that passed was RomneyCare in 2006 -- with the help of Ted Kennedy!) And were this bill to be on the floor, and supported by the Democrats, they would all vote for it no matter what they say now.
|This sign held outside the courthouse on Feb. 24 pretty much says it all.
New strategy: Focus on the four who can make it happen
Therefore, the critical strategy is to focus our efforts on the Democratic leadership. They have the power to make everything happen very fast. But as with most politicians, they aren't likely to see the light unless they feel the heat!
We have selected the top four in the House. Yesterday, we contacted each of their offices. We told them about Bill HD 4212 and how important it is to pass it immediately. They were polite and said they'd consider it. Fair enough. Now it's up to you!
Justina ACTION page
HERE is the contact information and talking points you need!!
YOU MUST make this happen. We think that most people in that building -- even the Democrat leadership -- feels a certain sympathy for Justina and her family. But given the political "reality" their first inclination is to do nothing. After all, why risk antagonizing the Governor, judges in the state, and the DCF lobby?
On the other hand, on many occasions we have seen the Legislature react like scared rabbits to an overwhelming public outcry directed at them (especially during an election year). We must create the sufficient heat . . . so they see the light. If Justina were to die while in DCF's custody, they need to know that her blood will be on their hands.