A NH legislator’s ‘crime’

“A person’s a person, no matter how small.”

This quote from Dr. Seuss’ beloved book “Horton Hears a Who” has a lot to say to us about the controversy over Rep. Warren Groen’s remarks during the debate on whether to make the red-tailed hawk the state raptor.

The fourth-grade class from Hampton Falls, as part of a civics lesson, proposed a bill to make the red-tailed hawk the state raptor. Kudos to the class and to their teacher for a creative way of seeing firsthand how a bill is proposed, debated and either rejected or made law.

During the debate, Rep. Groen, one of a bipartisan majority who defeated the bill, made his infamous remarks: “The red-tailed hawk grasps its prey with its talons and then uses its razor-sharp beak to rip its victims to shreds, basically tearing them limb from limb … it would serve as a much better mascot for Planned Parenthood.”

The resulting chorus of criticism echoed with concern for the fourth-graders. After all, a person’s a person no matter how small.

I don’t think I would have made those remarks in that setting. I would prefer to keep the debate pertinent to the topic at hand and not introduce another hot topic to the debate. And, while I would have voted against the bill (we don’t need more named state whatevers), I would have preferred to use the occasion to add four points to the fourth-graders’ civics lesson.

• Any legislator can submit a bill, no matter how important, at the request of his constituents.

• Over 1,000 bills are submitted in the first year of each legislative session.

• Of those bills, eight of 10 die, they are voted ITL – inexpedient to legislate. I would have thanked the class for proposing one of those bills, even though I felt it was inexpedient to legislate.

Finally, I would have added the most important point of all – free speech is one of our fundamental freedoms. Free speech means that sometimes people say things we disagree with, and that may even sting. But I would encourage them to see this is part of life and they should not try to quell that speech or at some point others may try to quell their free speech.

In exercise of my free speech, let me comment on the content of my brother’s words and on his reason for saying them. Yes, Warren is my brother. We served together in the Legislature in 2011-12. Anyone who knows us knows we often disagree on methods.

It is fascinating that in all of the raucous press over Warren’s words, I have not heard anyone say that his comparison of the actions of a red-tailed hawk to an abortion is inaccurate.

Warren did not attack the fourth-grade class. He pointed out that the abortions Planned Parenthood performs (370,000 each year) are done in a way that is chillingly similar to the actions of the red-tailed hawk. That comparison is his “crime.”

If we find it so revolting that a fourth-grade class should hear these remarks, where is the outrage over the one child of every five who is not in that fourth-grade class because no one heard the cry of the nameless little “Who” when he or she died in an abortion clinic nine years ago?

Rep. Groen’s “crime” – if it is a crime – is that he has heard the silent scream of that little one and it compels him to action, no matter how unpopular.

Warren is a principled, passionate and persuasive defender of life. There are an untold number of children and adults who live today because Warren has for decades encouraged their moms to choose life for their children. I believe that quite a number of fourth-grade classes could be filled with the lives he has been instrumental in saving from abortion.

Here’s the truth: Warren’s crime is that he believes “a person’s a person, no matter how small.”

In Dr. Seuss’ book, the “Whos” are finally saved when the littlest “Who” finally joins the screams of the whole Who community. And the outside world finally hears their desperate cries.

Warren hears the silent screams of a million Whos who will die this year, a million nameless, tiny, unborn Whos who will not attend a hearing at their statehouse in 2024, who will never have the opportunity to hear a debate from the gallery, who will never puzzle over why some are so outraged over an obscure legislator’s remarks.

Warren is guilty of Horton’s crime. He is determined to protect these defenseless little Whos, “because a person’s a person, no matter how small.”

I stand with my brother. I, too, hear the silent screams.

Fenton Groen is a former state senator.