A New Hampshire Republican lawmaker said last week that he strongly opposed a bill drafted by local fourth-graders to establish the Red-Tailed Hawk as the "State Raptor" because the predator bird reminds him of an abortion provider.
The hawk "grasps them with its talons then uses its razor-sharp beak to basically tear it apart limb by limb," State Rep. Warren Groen (R) said on the House floor as the class of 10-year-old students watched from the gallery. "And I guess the shame about making this a state bird is it would serve as a much better mascot for Planned Parenthood."
The fourth-graders from Lincoln Akerman School in Hampton Falls, New Hampshire, had drafted House Bill 373 as part of a lesson on how politics work. Lawmakers rejected the bill in front of the students by a vote of 133 to 160, with some arguing that the legislation was unnecessary.
"Do we need a state waterfowl, a state pet bird, a state wild bird?" Groen told The Huffington Post in a phone interview. "How many types of birds do we need?"
Groen said he directed the abortion metaphor at the adults in the room, not at the kids, although he knew the students were there watching. "The selective outrage about this I find quite curious," he said. "Every week in Manchester, the fourth-grade class from 2025 is killed out. Babies that would be 10 years old and in fourth grade 10 years from now are aborted in Manchester, and there's no outrage."
Jodi Linnehan Kriner, who is a mother of one of the students and watched Groen's remarks online, wrote in a letter to lawmakers Wednesday that as a lifelong resident of the state, "I am ashamed of these people we call our representatives."
"If any rep can tell me how I should answer a question that was asked to me last night by my 10 year old son, Andrew, please let me know. He asked 'Mom, what does planned parenthood have to do with the red tailed hawk tearing apart its prey, and why should it be the mascot?'" she wrote.
Jim Cutting, the teacher of the fourth-grade class, told The Huffington Post that the Planned Parenthood moment was "a missed opportunity for an adult to be a great role model."
Groen said he should not have to censor what he says just because there are children in the gallery. "It's pretty hard to speak in the House when there's kids in the gallery," he said. "Should we limit free speech or limit access to the gallery?"
UPDATE: March 20, 6:22 p.m. -- New Hampshire House Speaker Shawn Jasper (R) demanded an apology from Groen in a statement on Friday.
"Rep. Groen clearly crossed the line in his remarks during the debate on the Red Tailed Hawk," Jasper said. "Not only was it in extremely poor taste but it also violated Mason’s Rules which governs debate, that 'No one is to speak impertinently (or rudely).' The comment drawing a correlation between the Red Tailed Hawk and Planned Parenthood was offensive on many levels and I believe Rep. Groen owes an apology to not only the children of the Lincoln Ackerman School in Hampton Falls, but to his constituents and to his colleagues in the House.”
CORRECTION: A previous version of this article said Jodi Linnehan Kriner was in the gallery during Groen's remarks; she watched them online. A misspelling of Jim Cutting's last name has also been corrected.