NEW HAMPSHIRE gubernatorial candidate Walter Havenstein and U.S. Senate candidate Scott Brown have both recently touted themselves as “pro-choice.” While we at Planned Parenthood New Hampshire Action Fund welcome any supporter of access to safe and legal abortion, there are some important questions we must ask when candidates suddenly invoke the “pro-choice” label months before an important election.
When it comes to discussing abortion, labels don’t work. The “pro-choice” and “pro-life” labels don’t reflect the complexity of the issue or the way that Americans think and talk about abortion. The same goes for how politicians think and talk about abortion.
In this case, labels become a very convenient way to whitewash an anti-women’s health record, or mislead voters about a candidate’s true policy positions.
For instance, while Havenstein’s association with the “pro-choice” label may be wise given the views of New Hampshire voters, it is not consistent with his statements. Havenstein has said he would support multiple restrictions on abortion, including an outright ban on abortion late in the pregnancy which, while rare, often involves heartbreaking and tragic circumstances, including serious risks to the woman’s health.
These positions are out of touch with the majority of voters. Polling shows that when voters examine the real-world circumstances surrounding abortion after 20 weeks of pregnancy, 60 percent of Americans oppose laws that would ban the procedure.
Havenstein also opposes expanding Medicaid, a position that could severely restrict access to lifesaving health care for the 50,000 adults struggling to make ends meet who are now eligible for financial help through the New Hampshire Health Protection Program. So, what would happen to this vulnerable population if Havenstein were to roll back this crucial expansion of health care services?
Despite also claiming to be “pro-choice,” Brown voted to defund Planned Parenthood and other critical services for women in the GOP budget. He voted for legislation that would have let bosses deny their employees insurance coverage for birth control and he offered an amendment to legislation that would have allowed doctors to deny rape survivors emergency contraception, forcing a woman to carry a pregnancy caused by her attacker.
Brown has also said that he wants to “repeal Obamacare.” Voters deserve to know that means going back to the days when insurance companies could deny you coverage because of so called “pre-existing” conditions, when women were charged more for health insurance, and when families were living only an accident or illness away from bankruptcy. If Brown were to succeed in repealing the Affordable Care Act, what would happen to the more than 40,000 New Hampshire residents — the majority of whom are women — who have enrolled?
Repealing the Affordable Care Act would also mean taking away the women’s preventive benefit, which covers birth control and cancer screening without co-pays, for the 253,000 women in New Hampshire who will benefit from this coverage.
According to a recent survey, approximately seven in 10 Americans support the birth control benefit of the Affordable Care Act.
In fact, across the United States women have saved an estimated $483 million on their out-of-pocket costs on birth control last year.
These are not so-called “social issues,” as Havenstein and Brown have suggested. This is about equality, health security and basic rights for women.
As a country, we face unprecedented attacks on women’s health — and we need to elect leaders who will not only support women’s health, but will stand up like a brick wall to those who want to impose their personal beliefs on everyone else.
When taking a close look into both candidates, the answer is clear. If elected, both Brown and Havenstein would jeopardize critical health care for the women and families of New Hampshire.
We know what’s at stake for women this November.
That’s why, alongside our national partners, Planned Parenthood New Hampshire Action Fund is launching the Women are Watching 2014 campaign to ensure women know exactly where the candidates stand on issues that affect our health and rights.
In order to have an honest conversation about the future of women’s health, we’re going to have to look beyond labels.
Jennifer Frizzell is political director for the Planned Parenthood New Hampshire Action Fund.