‘Vulnerable’ women will not stand for Sununu’s inaction

The fictional world of The Handmaid’s Tale is eerily close to becoming a reality for women across New Hampshire.

Anti-choice politicians have introduced a number of bills this legislative session aimed at blocking or outright denying women access to birth control and abortion. Under these laws, New Hampshire would be a place where politicians dictate what information doctors are able to tell their patients, health providers from a physician down to a pharmacy store employee can block women’s access to birth control or other health services based on personal beliefs, and abortion is prohibited after viability based on the religious opinions of a provider rather than medical science standards.

The most heinous language in this slew of outrageous bills suggests that women are “vulnerable persons,” not intelligent or independent enough to make their own decisions. This bill would label a woman seeking an abortion as a “vulnerable person” and take away her right to access abortion care until a third party determined she was fit to make decisions about her own body. These proposals are as insulting as they are dangerous and if passed, would return us to a time when women had no access to safe healthcare or control over their futures.

A Pew Research Center study in 2014 found that 66 percent of Granite Staters believe abortion should be legal in all or most cases. That’s even higher than a Pew study from last year that found a 57 percent majority of Americans share the same view. Despite the strong support, New Hampshire policymakers continue to chip away at access to abortion care. In 2014, the last year for which data is available, the state was served by just four abortion providers, and 60 percent of New Hampshire counties did not have an abortion clinic. Anti-choice leaders have made it clear that they need not overturn Roe v. Wade, but can circumvent the Supreme Court’s decision by making abortion care impossible to access in practice.

These bills are up for a full vote in the House this week, when we’ll learn how many of our state leaders are still living back in the 1950s. New Hampshire voters expect more of our lawmakers than the anti-women, anti-science proposals the Legislature has set forth. Politicians are sending the wrong message to constituents when they allow such egregious attacks on women’s reproductive rights to go unchallenged. In a time when Vice President Mike Pence says legal abortion will soon be a thing of the past, we know any restriction of women’s access to quality, safe reproductive health care can be a slippery slope.

It is shameful that in 2018 we have to continue to remind politicians that women, like men, are people and therefore capable of rational and responsible thoughts and decisions.

New Hampshire women should be trusted to make their own health care decisions without interference by politicians. Gov. Sununu, in particular, has a responsibility to speak out. As the top elected official in state government, and one who has acted to limit reproductive health options while also calling himself a champion of women’s health, constituents have a right to know where he stands on these bills. Now is his opportunity to take a stand by denouncing attacks on reproductive health and calling for legislation that expands safe, legal access to contraception and abortion rather than the current bills which seek to cripple it.

 

(Zandra Rice-Hawkins is the executive director of Granite State Progress Education Fund. Emily Morgan is the founder of Handmaid Coalition.)

Originally Published in the Concord Monitor

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