As Republicans across the nation work on appealing to women voters, especially when reproductive health is involved, the New Hampshire Republican Party went in the opposite direction Monday. At its convention on Saturday, the party changed its language around abortion, saying that it will “support the pre-born child’s fundamental right to life and personhood under the Fourteenth Amendment, and implement all Constitutional and legal protections.” The new stance, which would outlaw all abortion and some forms of contraception, is already gathering criticism, and puts the Republican nominee for the United States Senate, Scott Brown, in an awkward position.
On Monday, Brown said that he disagreed with the party’s stance on abortion, calling himself a “pro-choice, independent Republican.”
His record, however, shows mixed support for women’s access to abortion and other forms of reproductive health. While his website says that he “believes that these personal decisions are best made between a woman and her doctor,” he also supports limits to women’s access, such as parental notification laws. In 2012, when he represented Massachusetts in the Senate, he was a co-sponsor of a bill that would allow employers to limit the coverage of contraception for moral and religious reasons, and also voted to defund Planned Parenthood. While in the Massachusetts state legislature in 2005, he added an amendment to a bill that would have allowed doctors with religious concerns to opt out of offering rape victims emergency contraception.
Both Gov. Maggie Hassan (D) and Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D) spoke out against the changes to the party platform. Shaheen said that the platform shows “they believe they should make the decisions about birth control and health care for women in New Hampshire and around the country,” Shaheen said that the platform shows “just how irresponsibly out of touch [the Republican Party] are with the needs and rights of women.” Hassan called the platform “anti-woman” and said it would put unfair financial burdens on them.
While New Hampshire is responsible for less than 1 percent of abortions in the United States, compared to other states, abortion is relatively easy to access. Its only limits on abortions are parental consent laws, and public funding is only available in cases of rape, incest or for the safety of the mother; there are no mandated waiting periods or required medical counseling. In New Hampshire, 50 percent of counties do not have a provider, and 23 percent of women live in counties without a provider, compared to over 80 and 35 percent respectively on a national level. Since 2008, New Hampshire has seen a 11 percent increase in abortion providers. Currently, it has 13 abortion providers, more than Missouri, Mississippi, North Dakota and several other states. This summer, Hassan a signed a bill that created a 25-foot buffer zone around abortion clinics, although it is currently facing legal challenges.
Throughout this election season, the Republican Party’s lack of appeal to women has become a major narrative; since the 1980s, women are much more likely to identify as Democrats and less likely to approve of Republican presidents than men, and, in 2012, Obama won the women’s vote by 11 percent. Since then, the Republican Party has tried to appeal more to women, highlighting women in the Republican Party and training candidates to avoid offending women.
However, the issue of personhood and the support it has received from the Republican Party has emerged as a major point of debate this election. In Iowa, the Democratic nominee, Bruce Braley, criticized his opponent Jodi Ernst for supporting a state-wide personhood amendment; the race is currently considered to be a tossup. In Colorado, Republican nominee Cory Gardner has been linked to personhood, thanks to his support of both a state-wide amendment and legislation in the House of Republicans; the race in Colorado is currently a tossup that’s leaning towards Gardner’s opponent Sen. Mark Udall.