By Senators Becky Whitley and Rebecca Perkins Kwoka
Read the op-ed at UnionLeader.com.
Over our objections, the Republican majority in the state Senate passed a draconian budget that includes a cruel abortion ban, which is extreme in its lack of exceptions. This anti-woman, anti-family policy will only serve to harm Granite Staters in intensely complex circumstances, and criminalize doctors for providing compassionate care.
We were shocked to learn that the legislation put into our state budget was an arbitrary ban on abortions after 24 weeks, including:
Criminalizing doctors with felonies and 7 years of prison time.
No exception for the health of the fetus.
No exception for victims or rape or incest.
An incredibly narrow and insufficient maternal health exception.
During the budget debate, we fought to mitigate the harm of this bill through five separate amendments. All were rejected.
This legislation is an extreme and politically-motivated attempt to create a false narrative about abortion in New Hampshire. Abortions are an extremely emotional and personal subject; New Hampshire women and doctors, in all their complexity and expertise, simply do not — ever — make the decision to end a pregnancy lightly or hastily.
We heard testimony from providers who shared their experiences supporting women as they received devastating news about their pregnancies, and stories from women who made the very difficult decision to terminate a pregnancy for profoundly personal and unique reasons. These pregnancies are often very much wanted, yet complications are found later in the pregnancy, sometimes after nurseries have been set up and baby showers planned or held.
In addition to shattered dreams and heavy hearts, this legislation would force a grieving woman to continue a pregnancy and carry a fetus possibly incompatible with life for perhaps up to 16 more weeks, even if that fetus will have a devastating outcome. As mothers who care deeply about all children, we find that part of the bill particularly cruel.
Government intrusion into a woman’s right to bodily integrity during a profoundly personal time only adds shame to the many emotions a woman is already feeling at this deeply personal time, and adds to their grief.
We heard testimony from providers who have supported women and their families who have chosen to do everything possible to try to save the life of a fetus, regardless of the anomaly or prognosis. Shouldn’t everyone have the right to choose what is best for their family — or do we not not trust women to make the right choice?
The woman is the best person to make decisions about her pregnancy, in consultation with their partner if available and doctors. She has and feels that connection to the pregnancy. She cares for the baby before and after any known difficulties with a pregnancy; worries before and after any good or bad news; lives with every decision she makes as a parent, during or after pregnancy.
Until this is fully recognized, women will never truly be equal. The fundamental right to make decisions about our bodies, lives and futures is central to the pursuit of economic justice and gender equality. We have spoken to many women of the generation before us who feel discouraged we even need to speak these words. How can women have come so far and yet be trusted so little that there must still be legislation to control our bodies and choices?
New Hampshire has a long and proud tradition of dignity and respect of our citizens to Live Free or Die; to live by our ingenuity and heart; to have warm hearts and granite fortitude. But inserting a highly political, anti-liberty piece of legislation into the state budget is not the New Hampshire way, and shows that the toxic national debate and zealous pursuit to remove access to safe, legal abortion has seeped into our State House.
We implore the governor to join us in trusting and empowering women to make decisions for themselves and their families, and veto this budget.
Read the op-ed at UnionLeader.com.