top of page

The Most Extreme, Anti-Abortion Candidates Shaheen has Faced

In Case You Missed It, the Union Leader reports that every Republican candidate for the U.S. Senate in New Hampshire opposes abortion rights and would restrict a woman’s access to a full range of health services.

Key points from the Union Leader's reporting :

  • Jeanne Shaheen first was elected Governor by beating a staunchly anti-choice candidate, but the Republicans she has faced in her campaigns for federal office have worked to ensure that abortion was not a campaign issue.

  • That's not the case in 2020.

  • “In 2020, we know that to win her third term, Shaheen will have to get by the most vocal, anti-abortion nominee she has faced in all her past campaigns for federal office.”

  • Former NH House Speaker Bill O'Brien supports the Alabama law that would ban abortion including in cases of rape and incest, and has attacked one of his rivals for even admitting that Roe vs. Wade is the law of the land.

  • Donald Bolduc and Corky Messner both oppose a woman's right to choose and would defund Planned Parenthood. Messner would instead direct their funding to dangerous crisis pregnancy centers.

  • Corey Lewandowski has publicly touted President Trump’s efforts to take away a woman’s right to choose.

Endorsed by the Planned Parenthood Action Fund, Shaheen is a lifelong champion for women’s reproductive rights, having authored and steered to passage the "Shaheen amendment" to provide women in the military who are victims of rape or incest health insurance coverage for abortion.

  • As Governor, Shaheen repealed a law making abortion a felony and signed legislation requiring insurers to cover contraceptives.

  • The only woman on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Shaheen has championed legislation to permanently repeal the Global Gag Rule, an executive order banning federal funds for foreign nongovernmental organizations that provide abortion or information about abortion, even when they use non-U.S. funds as well.

By Kevin Landrigan

CONCORD — U.S. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-NH, rose to political power from a career of championing abortion rights as a strategist and field organizer 30 years ago.

In 2020, we know that to win her third term, Shaheen will have to get by the most vocal, anti-abortion nominee she has faced in all her past campaigns for federal office.

Since the landmark, Roe vs. Wade decision legalizing abortion in 1973, the New Hampshire House has but for two years had a majority supporting abortion rights.

The state has some of the least restrictive laws governing abortion on the books.

And in her three Senate elections, Shaheen, 72, did not have a prominent, anti-abortion offensive waged against her.

In 2014, she faced former Mass. Sen. Scott Brown, an abortion rights supporter.

In both 2008 and 2002, she went up against former Sen. John E. Sununu who opposed abortion rights but did not emphasize the issue even when he unseated Sen. Bob Smith in a 2002 Republican primary.

His younger brother, Gov. Chris Sununu, supports abortion rights.

Well, 2020 is going to be very different.

All GOP hopefuls anti-abortion

The Union Leader has researched the records and public statements of the three declared and a fourth potential, Republican U.S. Senate hopeful.

Former House Speaker Bill O'Brien of Nashua, retired Brig. Gen. Don Bolduc of Stratham, Wolfeboro wealthy trial lawyer Bryant "Corky" Messmer and potential hopeful Corey Lewandowski of Windham have all taken very strong, anti-abortion stands.

"I am super excited at the prospect there are a number of these candidates who are seemingly pro-life. I do feel it’s going to fire up the base," said Shannon McGinley of Bedford, longtime executive director of Cornerstone Policy Research, the state's leading group for social conservatives.

"We can finally have someone who can carry that voice and it's nice to have more than one option."

On the flip side, Shaheen last month became the first candidate in the country for any race in 2020 to get the endorsement of the Planned Parenthood Action Fund.

Shaheen gets high marks from the group as author of the "Shaheen amendment" that provides women in the military health coverage for abortions if they rape or incest victims and the only woman on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

"People across New Hampshire want their elected officials to stand up to the Trump administration’s attacks that put our health, rights, and freedoms at risk, and Sen. Shaheen will always fight for the people of New Hampshire," said Sabrina Dunlap, vice president of public affair for the NH fund. "Sen. Shaheen is a trailblazer and a lifelong champion for reproductive and sexual health care, and she has worked tirelessly to fight against the Global Gag Rule and the Trump administration’s attacks on reproductive health."

Before becoming a state senator, Shaheen along with helping Jimmy Carter become president spent years working as an adviser to the state chapter of the National Abortion Rights Action League.

In the GOP field, O'Brien has the longest, public record on the issue since he presided over the House during that two-year period, 2011-12, when it had an anti-abortion majority.

And the House during that window passed a partial-birth abortion ban, a ban on abortions after 20 weeks, a requirement of a 24 hour waiting period before receiving an abortion, and a proposal to prohibit the use of public funds for abortions.

The GOP-led Senate at the time killed three of those four bills, but O'Brien got the Legislature to override then-Gov. John Lynch's veto of the partial-birth abortion ban.

O'Brien backs Alabama abortion ban

O'Brien told WMUR he supported the Alabama law a lower court judge sidelined last week that would ban abortion in all cases including rape and incest.

"I believe in the sanctity of life. I'm not willing to say that any life is a life that ought to be done away with," O'Brien said.

And the fiery conservative didn't hesitate to attack Bolduc simply for stating Roe vs. Wade was the "law of the land."

"Think what you will about the substance of Roe v. Wade decision," O'Brien said at a candidates' night in Nottingham last month.

"It horrifies me that a Supreme Court would say yes to unborn death. But put that aside, it’s not the law of the land. They should be interpreting the law of the land. They made it up. We have originalists on the court now. We should have more of them."

For his part, Bolduc has followed this up with strong statements against Planned Parenthood.

"Well, first of all, I fully support the president in his Planned Parenthood view. I do not support funding Planned Parenthood as it is today because money is going to abortions, 330,000 abortions… Yeah, you're exactly right," Bolduc said at a Hollis GOP meeting last July.

"Planned Parenthood is not the way we need to go. It's not the way the President wants to go. It's not the way I will support, you know, surveys show it's not the way New Hampshire wants to go."

Messner was new to New Hampshire politics but during a town hall forum at the Derry Opera House last Tuesday he emphasized his opposition to Planned Parenthood.

"I am pro-life and I am for not taking away the funds from Planned Parenthood, I’m for giving those funds to the great organizations that help women who in emergency pregnancies and help them get through the pregnancy, help them have the kid and help them thereafter, be it through adoption or raising the child as a single parent," Messner said.

Lewandowski salutes Trump's pro-life record

Finally there's Lewandowski who last February on Fox News praised Trump's leadership against abortion.

"This President has said it so many times that what he's talking about comes to fruition down the road and what we've seen from this administration, the Trump-Pence administration is the most pro-life administration in the history of our country," Lewandowski said.

"He stood up for the right to life as a candidate. What they've done as an administration only further cements how strong it is that the life of the baby is critical."

A total of 27 abortion laws have been enacted across 12 states so far in 2019.

During the first five months in 2019, a total of 479 restrictions were put in place in 33 states which is more than a third of all restrictions adopted since Roe vs. Wade.

Cornerstone's McGinley believes it's both a cultural and political shift.

"It is a bigger question about the culture. Look at how there has been no debate about changing the life platform the last two Republican conventions. That's not even a controversial issue anymore in that party," McGinley said.

On one level, this is deja vu for Shaheen.

Before her federal career, Shaheen became the first woman elected NH governor in 1996 by beating Manchester lawyer Ovide Lamontagne who had not only opposed all abortions and also endorsed teaching creationism in public schools.

A generation later, Shaheen clearly understands what her side is up against with Trump rallying states with GOP governors to further limit abortions.

"Laws to restrict a woman’s access to health services - including abortion - are wrong. The court was right to strike down the Alabama abortion ban but these attacks on reproductive health care are still coming," Shaheen tweeted in response to the Alabama ruling last week.

A spokeswoman for the New Hampshire Democratic Party agreed the rhetoric from GOP candidates would have real consequence.

"While O'Brien and the rest of the Republicans challenging Senator Shaheen are determined to overturn Roe vs. Wade and turn back the clock on women's health care, New Hampshire women will work every day to stop them from taking away our rights," said Holly Shulman.

Through a spokesman, NH Republican State Chairman Stephen Stepanek denied comment for this story.


bottom of page