Abortion in N.H. political spotlight following Trump Supreme Court nomination

  • President Donald Trump greets Judge Brett Kavanaugh, his Supreme Court nominee, in the East Room of the White House on Monday, July 9, 2018, in Washington. AP

For the Monitor
Published: 7/10/2018 6:10:36 PM

From the governor’s race to the battle for congressional seats, President Donald Trump’s nomination of Brett Kavanaugh to the U.S. Supreme Court quickly took center stage in New Hampshire politics.

With U.S. Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy’s retirement giving the Republican president a prime opportunity to replace the crucial swing vote on the high court with a reliably conservative justice, many supporters of women’s reproductive rights fear the court may overturn Roe v. Wade, the landmark 1973 high court decision that constitutionally protected a woman’s right to have an abortion.

University of New Hampshire School of Law professor John Greabe validated those fears.

If Kavanaugh is confirmed, “I think they’re going to overturn Roe v. Wade,” he said.

”They’re going to say Roe was wrong the day it was decided and it’s wrong today,” Greabe added.

If Greabe’s prediction proves true, abortion would likely become a states’-rights issue.

As expected, Democrats are rallying after Trump’s selection.

On Tuesday, Democratic gubernatorial candidate Steve Marchand launched a campaign tour highlighting his plan to protect legal access to abortion in New Hampshire.

At a campaign event in Portsmouth, the city’s former mayor who is making his second straight bid for the corner office warned that “the confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court means in almost certain terms the overturning of Roe v. Wade.”

Surrounded by about two dozen supporters, Marchand highlighted a plan he first unveiled last week that includes “the public funding of abortion services.”

“New Hampshire should join the 17 states which currently cover abortion as part of Medicaid,” he urged. “This was most recently passed in Illinois and signed into law last year by a Republican governor.”

Marchand ribbed former state senator Molly Kelly of Harrisville, his rival for the Democratic nomination.

“I would say to my Democratic opponent, “Let’s get specific. It’s not enough to bemoan the awful circumstances at the federal level that we see. We agree on that. But it’s the next step that matters,’ ” he said.

“I am a champion for women’s reproductive rights. I always have been. I always will be,” Kelly told reporters Tuesday on a conference call. “I have stood with Planned Parenthood every single day and will continue to do that and will do so as governor as well.”

But she avoided answering questions on whether she supports the public financing of abortions. Instead, she promised she’d shortly announce her own proposals.

“I am going to put out a policy that will be very clear on where I stand, where I have always stood,” she said.

On the morning after the Kavanaugh nomination, Republican Gov. Chris Sununu mentioned his longtime support for abortion rights.

“I’ve been very clear. I’m a pro-choice Republican,” the governor told reporters after a bill signing Tuesday in Portsmouth that gives firefighters a path toward filing workers’ compensation claims for cancer.

But Marchand argued that Sununu’s words were hollow.

“It is not enough to simply say you’re pro-choice,” he said.

“When Chris Sununu says he’s pro-choice, he says that in a political context. We’re trying to go where the rubber hits the road, the real world of people,” he added.

Kelly also criticized Sununu, saying, “He has waffled on this issue.”

The governor discounted the attacks from his Democratic challengers as politics.

“We’ve supported women’s reproductive rights; we’ve supported women’s health initiatives across the state. That record is stark clear. They can try to make comparisons all they want. That’s just political games,” Sununu said.

The only two Granite Staters who actually get to vote on the nomination were quick to express their concerns Monday night after the announcement was made.

“I will only support Judge Kavanaugh’s nomination if he protects the civil rights and freedoms enshrined in the Constitution,” Democratic Sen. Jeanne Shaheen said in a statement.

And fellow Democratic Sen. Maggie Hassan explained that she was “concerned about Judge Kavanaugh’s commitment to the rights of all Americans.”

In New Hampshire’s two races for Congress, most of the candidates quickly weighed in on the Kavanaugh nomination.

“President Trump’s appointment of Judge Brett Kavanaugh is deeply concerning. The fate of a woman’s right to choose and LGBTQ equality hang in the balance,” wrote executive councilor and 1st Congressional District Democratic candidate Chris Pappas.

Many of his rivals for the nomination used similar language in their statements.

Lynne Blankenbeker, one of the leading Republican candidates running in the state’s 2nd Congressional District, applauded the president’s nomination and praised Kavanaugh as “a strong, conservative justice, with a sharp legal mind.”

“He will make an excellent addition to the Supreme Court.,” she said.

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