MANCHESTER, N.H. – U.S. Senator Maggie Hassan (D-NH) joined a panel of local healthcare providers on Friday morning to share their concerns over ongoing attacks on reproductive rights and the fallout of those attacks on women and doctors seeking to help women.
The panelists, specialists in women’s health, shared various stories and insights over women who face difficult decisions regarding abortion and other reproductive health issues, including instances where the life of a woman is at risk. Doctor Nancy Pariser shared one of those stories with the panel and assembled audience relating to a 17-year-old girl from Texas who was seeking emergency care after the passage of restrictions on reproductive rights. Pariser said that the girl had suffered an infection, but she was 21 weeks into pregnancy and her water broke prematurely. According to Pariser, the girl could not obtain medical care due to fears of legal repercussions from the hospital, and she died soon afterward.
The concern that a scenario like that or something comparable where women could be punished simply for seeking medical care or doctors could be punished for trying to help women navigate options related to contraception or pregnancy has led to a marked change in the attitudes of women according to Dr. Valerie Valant.
“I’ve (recently) had women in their 20s who say ‘I want my (fallopian) tubes out, I don’t trust the government, I’m certain that I don’t want children, I didn’t think I’d do it this early in my life, but I can’t risk not being able to have an abortion.’,” said Valant.
Valant and others expressed frustration with what they saw as misconceptions such as women seeing abortion as a positive experience rather than a difficult and necessary one and the inability of anyone to predict complications that might arise in any woman’s abortion.
In states where reproductive rights are being taken away, Valant also expressed concerns over doctors not receiving training to deal with life-threatening situations for pregnant women out of fear that they may now face criminal liability.
“What do we do? Do we let women die? It’s overwhelming,” said Valant.
The panel also expressed frustration with the actions of elected officials not familiar with medical procedures inserting their perspectives into difficult and personal reproductive choices faced by women, ranging from abortion to contraception and family planning.
Valant said the creeping fear of a national ban on abortion after Roe v. Wade was overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court has led to a chilling effect on the ability of doctors and patients to be honest with each other, with Pariser adding that fear won’t stop with abortion.
“When rights are taken away, then there are other rights continue to be taken away,” said Pariser. “This is only the beginning.”
The panel also agreed that abortion bans would not actually stop abortions, but send them underground, making the procedures more dangerous and more expensive for women.
Hassan told the panel and the audience that she would fight for reproductive rights as long as she is a U.S. Senator and exhorted to the crowd that there will be difficult work ahead to protect abortion rights in the near future.
Hassan also criticized the New Hampshire Executive Council for their efforts to try and defund Planned Parenthood over the last two years and took several shots at her opponent, Republican U.S. Senate nominee Don Bolduc.
She referred to Bolduc’s comments praising the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision and doubling down on comments that women should “get over” that decision, adding that Bolduc has attempted to hide other extreme stances since he became the Republican nominee.
For Hassan, the issue over abortion is actually about whether women should be treated as adults who can make decisions for themselves. While she said that Bolduc has made it clear where he stands, she asked the audience to ask every Republican candidate they meet where they stand on the topic. She also expressed the hope that at one point this issue can become a non-issue.
“There was once bipartisan support for the right of women to make these critical life and health decisions for themselves,” said Hassan. “I would look forward to the day when it becomes a bipartisan or nonpartisan issue again.”