- Associated Press - Monday, March 23, 2015

CONCORD, N.H. (AP) - A New Hampshire legislator won’t face discipline for comments he made linking abortion to an effort by a group of fourth-graders to have the state name an official raptor, an official said Monday.

House of Representatives Clerk Paul Smith said that any discipline of Rep. Warren Groen would have had to happen when he made the comments on March 12. Groen’s words were widely distributed in an online video posted last week.

The students at Lincoln H. Akerman School had drafted a measure to name the red-tailed hawk the official state raptor as part of a civics lesson. They got the measure through a House committee then, after getting a warm public welcome from legislators, the students watched from the House gallery as Groen spoke about the hawk.

“It grasps them with its talons and then uses its razor-sharp beak to rip its victims to shreds, to basically tear it apart limb by limb, and I guess the shame about making this a state bird is it would serve as a much better mascot for Planned Parenthood,” Groen said.

The kids didn’t understand the direct reference to abortion but school Principal Mark Deblois said he fielded calls from parents who were asked to explain what Planned Parenthood is and why it would be mentioned during a discussion of the red-tailed hawk.

House Speaker Shawn Jasper said the comments were in extremely poor taste and on Friday asked Groen to publicly apologize.

Groen, a Republican who said he stands by his comments, didn’t respond to an email seeking comment Monday and his voice mailbox was not accepting messages. He told The Associated Press last week that people should be more offended by abortion than by his words.

Jim Rivers, Jasper’s communications director, said the speaker spoke privately with Groen before making public the request for an apology.

“If anybody knows Speaker Jasper, he has always been very strong on the institution and the respect for the institution,” Rivers said. “The membership on both sides of the aisle should treat each other with respect and treat the institution with respect.”

The discipline Groen could have faced includes reprimand, censure or expulsion.

A spokeswoman for Planned Parenthood said the organization was pleased that Jasper and others have denounced Groen’s words.

“Representative Groen’s comments were extreme, out of touch and insulting to the people of New Hampshire, just like the legislative agenda he has worked to advance,” said Jennifer Frizzell, New Hampshire vice president of public policy for Planned Parenthood of Northern New England.

Jane Cormier, president of the anti-abortion group New Hampshire Right To Life, did not return a call seeking comment Monday.

Dean Spiliotes, a civics scholar at Southern New Hampshire University, said these kinds of inflammatory comments can trip up politicians on both sides of the spectrum, even more so in the age of social media where words are instantly broadcast to a wide audience.

“It’s sort of a classic example of where ideology trumps common sense,” Spiliotes said. “This isn’t even like he got caught on an open mic. He made a decision to make a comment on the floor.”

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