Commentary: Crisis moment for abortion rights underscores need for proactive action
This week, the U.S. Supreme Court hears oral arguments in a case that could overturn Roe v. Wade. (supremecourt.gov)
Six months from now, abortion could be illegal in half the country. This isn’t hyperbole. It’s a stark reality we live with every day as the leaders of reproductive health organizations, but with so much happening in our country and world it’s easy for this fact to get lost.
This week, the U.S. Supreme Court hears oral arguments in a case that could overturn Roe v. Wade – the landmark decision that ensured constitutional protections for abortion care. This is a crisis moment for abortion rights: the threat to the constitutional right to an abortion has never been greater in our country. By next year, 26 states – 36 million, or nearly half of U.S. women of reproductive age – could lose abortion access.
That is why New Hampshire must act now to ensure that, regardless of what happens federally, abortion will remain safe, legal, and accessible in the Granite State.
In our work we have talked to people who sought access to abortion before it was legal, as well as the children of mothers and grandmothers who died in back-alley abortions. The truth is, whether you know it or not, we all love someone who has had an abortion. One in four women of reproductive age in our country has had an abortion. Their decision was always valid, and for nearly 50 years it has been constitutionally protected.
For those of us born after 1973, the year Roe made abortion legal in all 50 states, an environment in which women cannot access the care they need seems unthinkable. From our perch in New England, in a state that has historically enjoyed bipartisan support for abortion rights, it would be understandable to think we can rest on our laurels.
New Hampshire does not have any trigger laws or pre-Roe abortion bans on the books that would take effect if – and when – that ruling falls, as 17 other states do. That’s thanks to then-Gov. Jeanne Shaheen, who worked with Republican majorities in the New Hampshire House and Senate to repeal our state’s antiquated abortion ban in 1997.
Unfortunately, after decades of bipartisan support to protect and expand reproductive rights, the political landscape has shifted in New Hampshire. Next month, a deeply unpopular and dangerous ban on abortion, with virtually no exceptions, goes into effect, as well as a government mandate that all people seeking abortion care undergo an ultrasound – even if it is not medically necessary. Although a broad, nonpartisan coalition will work to repeal this bill – because patients who need this complex care can’t wait – we know that repealing this ban isn’t enough given the imminent national threat to abortion rights.
When it comes to reproductive freedom, New Hampshire is one of the most supportive states in the country. But the increased voracity and success of attacks on abortion at the State House means that even in New Hampshire, the health care landscape may look very different for pregnant people by June when Supreme Court decisions are expected.
We are incredibly grateful that a group of legislators are working proactively to protect abortion rights. The Access to Abortion-care Act, LSRs 2022-2704 and 2022-2994, speaks to long-held New Hampshire values by putting into law that the state cannot further interfere in the right to access abortion. While this bill does not change any current New Hampshire abortion laws, it does provide critical protections to ensure Granite Staters can work with their medical providers to get the health care they need in the majority of situations.
In 2022, states across the country are gearing up to either ban or protect abortion access. New Hampshire has a choice: either we believe in bodily autonomy and our right to make personal, private medical decisions without government interference – or we don’t. This isn’t partisan. An individual’s ability to access abortion care is a matter of equality and liberty for all Granite Staters.
Now is the time to act – before it’s too late. By the time lawmakers leave Concord for their summer break next June, abortion could be illegal in 26 states. We hope the majority of Granite Staters who believe abortion care should remain safe, legal, and accessible will join us in calling on lawmakers to protect abortion rights in New Hampshire by passing the Access to Abortion-care Act.
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