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My Turn: With abortion rights under attack, it’s time for champions to step up



For the Monitor
Sunday, July 08, 2018

Although support for reproductive health care was included in the last New Hampshire Democratic Party platform, explicit support for abortion rights was noticeably absent. Not anymore.

In late June, the New Hampshire Democratic Party voted to include explicit support for abortion care in the 2018 party platform. Now the core values document reads: “We believe in access to the full range of reproductive health care, including contraception and abortion care, in a manner that is respectful, private, safe, and free from government interference in private medical decisions.”

We applaud the strong, unequivocal support for abortion care since historically, there has been strong public support for access to abortion in our state. A Pew Research Center study in 2014 found that 66 percent of New Hampshire voters believe abortion should be legal in all or most cases. Other polls show this holds true across generations and political affiliation. Granite Staters know that access to the full-range of reproductive rights is an economic justice issue; that a woman should have every right to self-determination and we should not be shy or coy about supporting those rights.

Given that abortion rights have been under constant attack in the state Legislature, and with the recent retirement of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Kennedy, it’s more important than ever before to demonstrate visible support for abortion rights. In the last legislative session, several bills were introduced that would drastically limit abortion and contraception access. These ranged from run-of-the-mill bills to delay, block, and obstruct contraception coverage and abortion care, to bills that actually labeled any woman seeking an abortion a “vulnerable” woman. Despite hundreds of constituent calls and emails, Gov. Chris Sununu refused to speak out against these measures, and more than 100 state representatives voted to pass these restrictive bills. That’s 100 too many.

Aggressive efforts to roll back reproductive rights in New Hampshire remind us that women can easily and unexpectedly be denied control of their lives and futures at the whim of politicians who put ideology before well-being. Though the bills ultimately failed, we can no longer accept inaction when it comes to abortion rights.

Not only must all policymakers who claim to care about women vehemently reject any effort to pass policies that shame, pressure and punish women who have abortions, but they must champion legislation that increases access to all women, including those who face the greatest barriers because of limited resources, language barriers, geography, or insurance status.

New Hampshire women recognize how critical abortion access is for women’s economic security and opportunity. That’s why constituents spoke out against these bills at the State House, and why they called on the New Hampshire Democratic Party to strengthen support for reproductive rights in the party platform. We are glad that call was answered. In a time when abortion is facing persistent legislative, administrative and political attacks, we need bold leadership.

Now, New Hampshire’s Democratic Party platform language is in line with those of neighboring states Maine and Vermont, which explicitly support an individual’s right to choose, and is one step closer to the Democratic National platform, which supports every woman’s access to quality reproductive health care, including safe and legal abortion, regardless of geography, income, or insurance.

New Hampshire’s historic step in support of abortion rights is an important and long-overdue update. The Democratic platform committee made it clear that they stand with Granite State women. Now all elected officials must take the next step to become champions, not just defenders, of abortion rights.

New Hampshire must continue to lead the way. We must do more than just defeat efforts to deny access to reproductive health care, but increase access to affordable, comprehensive health care including abortion to ensure strong healthy communities and families for all.

(Zandra Rice-Hawkins is executive director at Granite State Progress Education Fund.)