Opinion: Municipal leadership is critical to protect the future of reproductive care

By JINELLE HOBSON

Published: 10-27-2023 7:33 PM

Jinelle Hobson is Executive Director of Equality Health Center in Concord.

Since the U.S. Supreme Court issued the Dobbs decision last June, eliminating federal abortion protections nationwide, so much political change for abortion access has happened at the national and state level. Yet so many of the devastating impacts — from funding cuts to legal challenges, to increased anti-choice activity — have hit us locally, including here in Concord. You may not think of your local elected officials as important to the fight for reproductive rights, but as Concord prepares to elect a new mayor and a slate of city councilors this November, it has never been more important to examine and prioritize the future of reproductive equity and abortion access in our community.

This Election Day, and every day going forward, Concord needs public officials who will champion our work and help keep our local reproductive health clinic doors open. The health of our community depends on it.

Equality Health Center has been Concord’s reproductive and sexual healthcare provider for nearly 50 years. Since its doors opened in 1974, the clinic has served countless patients from across New Hampshire, providing over a dozen services including abortion care, contraception, gender-affirming healthcare, STD/STI testing and treatment, preventative health exams, and behavioral health services. Despite New Hampshire’s Executive Council continuously defunding family planning contracts that support low-income and uninsured Granite Staters in accessing basic reproductive healthcare in recent years, Equality Health Center has never turned away a patient in need.

Our clinic is committed to serving every member of the Concord community — and beyond (as we serve all on New England) — in a manner most accessible to them, including offering services on a sliding pay scale and working to arrange funding support for patients who cannot afford to seek abortion services. Equality Health is the oldest abortion provider in New Hampshire, and the clinic intends to continue providing these high-quality and urgently needed services to Granite Staters for as long as it can in the face of an uncertain future.

To do that, we need to mobilize the support of the local Concord community and call for more engagement from our local Concord leaders. When the legislature or the Executive Council callously defunds reproductive and sexual healthcare services, we need local officials to speak out and help defend our programs. When anti-choice protestors routinely and aggressively obstruct the sidewalk at our health center, impacting patient and community safety, we need more dialogue with city leaders and public safety officials to address these concerns. And we need partners who will help share legitimate and unbiased information on how people can access basic health care in our communities.

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Reproductive rights and abortion access have always been under attack by forces intent on eroding our bodily autonomy and basic freedoms. Those attacks have significantly escalated in the last year since the fall of Roe v. Wade. And now, we are simultaneously facing coordinated attacks on the LGBTQ+ and gender-affirming care services we provide. As our protections continue to be eroded, we must ensure that each of us is rallying in support of the community care that Equality Health Center provides. That includes ensuring that our local political leaders are strong advocates for the continued provision of this care.

At this moment of great uncertainty, we need leaders we can count on at City Hall to stand up for abortion access and reproductive freedom; leaders who will show up to our clinic and stand ready to advocate for our patients.

We know that an important front for defending and expanding abortion access is ensuring municipal support in cities and towns across New Hampshire where abortion care is provided. Local leadership holds enormous power to protect reproductive freedom for our community and for the region. We can strengthen the future of reproductive care in Concord by electing a mayor and city councilors who will fight for our rights, our abortion access, and our basic health care.