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InDepthNH: The Legislature Must Repeal Governor Sununu’s Abortion Ban

In a new op-ed, Terie Norelli, the former Speaker of the New Hampshire House, calls for the repeal of Chris Sununu’s abortion ban in the wake of the Supreme Court’s decision to render Roe v. Wade virtually meaningless in Texas. Norelli sharply criticizes Sununu for signing an abortion ban into law with no exceptions for rape, incest, or fatal fetal anomaly, and that requires mandatory ultrasounds; as well as for voting to defund Planned Parenthood, and supporting all three of the Supreme Court Justices who now threaten the future of Roe v. Wade.

By Terie Norelli

This past June, when Chris Sununu signed into law the first abortion ban in modern New Hampshire history, people across our state knew that this was just the beginning of what would be a long and relentless attack on reproductive rights by Sununu and New Hampshire Republicans. This is true now more than ever after the Supreme Court’s decision to render Roe v. Wade virtually meaningless in Texas, opening the door for Sununu and New Hampshire Republicans to continue their attacks on reproductive rights and health care services. That’s why we must hold Sununu accountable for his anti-choice record and call on the legislature to repeal Sununu’s abortion ban, which opens doctors up to felony penalties, makes no exceptions for rape, incest, or fatal fetal anomaly, and requires mandatory ultrasounds.

Chris Sununu’s decade-long anti-choice record is why the same threat to abortion access that is playing out in Texas exists here in New Hampshire. Governor Sununu supported the confirmation of the very Supreme Court Justices who now threaten reproductive rights. In 2017, the Governor signed a letter saying he “applaud[s]” the nomination of Justice Gorsuch and urged the Senate to “swiftly confirm” him. In 2018, he signed another letter saying he stood “in support” of Justice Kavanaugh’s nomination and encouraged the Senate to “move expeditiously” to confirm him. In 2020, Sununu said he supported advancing the nomination of Amy Coney Barrett. No matter what Chris Sununu claims about his position on Roe v. Wade, the fact is that he supported justices who wish to render Roe v. Wade meaningless and strip women of reproductive rights.

Chris Sununu’s record alone, from his support of anti-choice judges to casting the deciding vote to defund Planned Parenthood when he was on the Executive Council, is cause for serious concern about the future of access to abortion and reproductive health care. During the legislative session, he proved that he will not stand up against threats to abortion and reproductive health care in New Hampshire. Instead, blatantly disregarding years of bipartisan efforts to protect reproductive rights, Sununu signed the anti-choice budget this summer.

Over 200 medical and health care professionals, reproductive rights activists, and Granite Staters urged Sununu not to sign the budget specifically because it included the abortion ban and mandatory ultrasounds. Sununu ignored them and the women of our state, choosing to actively lobby for Republicans to support the budget and calling it “the greatest budget ever.” Now, with the Supreme Court failing to strike down the abortion ban in Texas, the door is wide open for Republican legislators in New Hampshire to continue their attacks on reproductive rights — and they’ve already said that they will propose a six-week abortion ban in the next legislative session.

Sununu and New Hampshire Republicans didn’t stop at an abortion ban and mandatory ultrasounds. Just this month, Sununu’s Executive Council voted to do what he did in 2015: defund Planned Parenthood and other family planning organizations.These Republican members on the Executive Council — for whom Sununu aggressively campaigned in 2020— cast their votes to reject family planning contracts that have had bipartisan support going back decades despite thousands of pages of supporting documents and the will of the majority of Granite Staters. As a result, thousands of women and people may no longer be able to access affordable primary and preventive health care.

Governor Sununu and the Republicans in the State House have clearly decided to tarnish our state’s “Live Free or Die” motto and the long, bipartisan tradition of defending reproductive rights in their quest to push for restrictive abortion legislation in New Hampshire. There has been a bipartisan backlash to Sununu’s abortion ban from people across New Hampshire, including former Republican legislators, who are rightfully shocked with the extreme direction their party is moving with regards to reproductive health care. Unfortunately, it has become increasingly clear that Governor Sununu and Republicans in the State House have no interest in listening to their constituents and are determined to continue waging attacks on our reproductive rights.

We must hold Chris Sununu and the Republican legislature accountable for trying to take away our reproductive rights. Democrats are already making calls for the legislature to fully repeal Sununu’s abortion ban and mandatory ultrasound requirement. I urge other legislators to join in their call to action and stand up for women and people across New Hampshire.


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