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Sen. Jeanne Shaheen: We need leaders who trust women

LIKE THE MAJORITY of women across New Hampshire and the country, I was outraged by the draft opinion leaked from the Supreme Court that would overturn Roe v. Wade. If that opinion stands, the court would take away women’s rights to privacy that have been in place for almost 50 years. If that decision stands, we as women would not be able to control our own bodies or our own futures, and the most consequential decisions women make in our lives — when and how to start families — wouldn’t belong to us. Those decisions would belong to the government — extreme politicians in state and federal office and unelected jurists would decide when, where and how women can have children. We are looking at a future where women and girls will have fewer freedoms than the generation before them.

The decision to have a child is one of the most personal and private decisions that women and families make. And that’s who should make it — a woman in consultation with her family and her doctor — not extremist politicians in Concord or Washington who know nothing about a woman’s circumstances. My office is hearing from women across the state who are terrified about what this would mean for their health and for their daughters’ futures. One woman wrote, “I am deeply disturbed, disappointed, and quite frankly, shaken down to my core” and another added, “I’d rather my daughter doesn’t grow up as a second-class citizen without rights or choices.”

Republican-controlled state legislatures across the nation are lying in wait to see Roe overturned so they can enact dangerous, extreme laws that impose government regulations on a woman’s body. An estimated 26 individual states are ready take immediate action to ban abortions entirely. Seventeen states would outlaw abortion even in cases of rape and incest. Many of these states would make women criminals for seeking abortions.

In Oklahoma, doctors would face up to 10 years in prison for performing an abortion. In Texas, it would be a minimum of five years in prison — the maximum penalty would be life in prison. In other parts of the country, existing abortion bans written a century ago will snap back into effect. Other states have frighteningly implemented disturbing laws that encourage private citizens to sue anyone who aids a woman seeking an abortion. These kind of “vigilante” laws urge neighbors to spy and report on one another.

What also is alarming is the expansive impact that overturning Roe would have on women’s reproductive health. Most women have either experienced a miscarriage or know someone who has — an occurrence that happens far more often than many realize because of the stigma created by our society. In some instances, women have to undergo what’s known as a “D&C,” or a dilation and curettage, which is an abortion-like procedure after the mother has miscarried. This is sometimes necessary for the mother’s health, but if Roe is overturned, women’s access to this care may be compromised. This could turn personal — and sometimes life or death — health decisions that should be made by women and their doctors over to Republican lawmakers.

In addition, overturning Roe could also jeopardize women’s ability to seek in vitro fertilization (IVF) to start or grow their families. State laws or regulations inspired by overturning Roe have created new legal arguments over rights of embryos, which could impact families using IVF. These questions and concerns over the encompassing effect of overturning Roe get at the heart of this pivotal issue: stripping women of the right to decide when and how to have families violates their most fundamental freedoms of life, liberty and happiness.

An estimated 70% of Americans support access to abortion. Yet, members of the Republican Party, including in New Hampshire, are overriding the will of the people to advance their agenda. Governor Chris Sununu became the first governor in New Hampshire’s modern history to sign into law an abortion ban, as well as unnecessary, costly mandatory ultrasound requirements. Amid the blowback from Granite Staters, the Governor tried to walk back his role — but he can’t. His words can’t reverse the unnecessary procedures women have endured because of his actions and those of his party.

Women need to send a message to partisan politicians: if you do not trust us to make our own health decisions, we do not trust you with our vote. Election Day is less than six months away — women’s health is on the line. We need to elect leaders who trust women, not extreme politicians who believe they are entitled to roll back fundamental freedoms that women have enjoyed for the last half century.