Abortion battle comes to Nashua

NASHUA – Democratic gubernatorial candidate Steve Marchand said the “vast majority of New Hampshirites” support full taxpayer-funded abortion for anyone, at any time, for any reason.

“We have an obligation at the state level to assert in the clearest, strongest manner possible, New Hampshire’s commitment to protect and maximize the right of women to make their own health care decisions about their own bodies, including reproductive decisions,” Marchand said during his Tuesday news conference at Nashua City Hall.

“In that spirit, I am proposing New Hampshire join other states in explicitly and expansively codifying the right to safely have an abortion,” he added.

Marchand, the former mayor of Portsmouth, faces former state senator Molly Kelly in the Sept. 11 Democratic primary for the right to challenge Republican Gov. Chris Sununu in November.

Marchand said there are eight states that currently have laws explicitly protecting the right to have an abortion, and he wants the Granite State to join them in becoming the ninth.

“These are unusual times in which we live, and I think that the next governor of New Hampshire needs to be focused a lot more on defining the future rather than describing the past,” Marchand said.

Moreover, his plan includes full public funding of abortion services through Medicaid, as well as the elimination of all state restrictions on abortion.

As it is, 17 states currently cover abortion as part of Medicaid. He also wants to repeal a law signed by Gov. Chris Sununu in 2017 relating to fetal homicide.

Marchand also mentioned the retirement of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy, who has generally been seen as the swing vote on the court in favor of upholding the famous 1973 decision that legalized abortion throughout the nation: Roe v. Wade.

Due to the presence of Republican President Donald Trump, Marchand fears a pro-life justice may fill Kennedy’s seat, allowing the decision to be overturned.

“With the announcement of Justice Kennedy, that he will be retiring this year, it has certainly heightened an already intense policy conversation to another level,” Marchand said.

However, while he had pro-choice supporters hovering nearby holding Marchand campaign signs, others gathered in opposition of abortion, clearly spelling out their stance on signs of their own. Peaceful protesters from New Hampshire Right to Life gathered to voice their opinions and respectfully pose questions.

However, with pro-choice people rallying for Marchand and his plans on one side, over his other shoulder, he had the pro-life people. With a clear divide on either side of Marchand, he said he doesn’t know anyone who has a pro-abortion stance.

“The circumstances under which people make this decision are almost always as difficult as one could imagine. But, in a state whose motto is Live Free of Die…In a state where the vast majority of New Hampshirites agree with policies like what I’m describing today…In light of what is poised to occur at the national level, we have a responsibility to act with clarity and purpose,” Marchand said.

“Folks should have no question about where I stand on this or any other issue as I run for governor of New Hampshire,” he added.

However, those with New Hampshire Right to Life in Concord have much different views. Group President Jen Robidoux said her membership peacefully protested Marchand’s Nashua speech.

“He doesn’t see the value of the other human being in this equation and that is the unborn child, and during this Fourth of July week, I think it’s of the utmost importance to recognize all human life as being important and have the freedom to live,” Robidoux said. “As it says on my sign, life is the first of the inalienable rights. Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, but life comes first, and we need to respect all life in the womb and outside the womb.”

However, many see the matter differently, including Eli Kuti with Equality Health Center in Concord. Kuti went to Catholic school for 12 years and said his family doesn’t agree with the pro-choice position, but are starting to get it. He said by overturning Roe v. Wade, women would die because they would have unsafe abortions.

“My bottom line is, this issue is not black and white,” Kuti said. “So, there’s a gray area for who should and shouldn’t be allowed to have an abortion, and that gray area is actual women and their partners who suffer. I really think that’s the point that needs made.”

Adam Urquhart can be reached at 594-1206 or aurquhart