Cross-posted with permission from the Women are Watching blog (in association with the Planned Parenthood Action Fund).
In New Hampshire, we take pride every four years when the eyes of the nation turn attention to our independent-minded state, as we play host to the first-in-the-nation presidential primary.
In recent weeks, the national media has shone the spotlight on our small state as the Republican presidential candidates sprint toward the first electoral test on the road to achieve their party’s nomination.
And now Primary Election Day has arrived.
But this year some things are different.
While the eyes of Americans across the country watch New Hampshire, the eyes of New Hampshire women (and the men who care about them) are looking at the candidates’ positions on the issues that directly affect us: women’s health. Since Planned Parenthood Northern New England faced its own defunding battle with the locally elected Executive Council earlier this year (over a routine contract renewal for Planned Parenthood health services), New Hampshirites are standing up and taking notice. We are worried about what we have seen and heard.
Our state has had a bipartisan tradition of supporting family planning and other critical primary health care services for half a century, and now many women are staring in disbelief at the Republican candidates on today’s ballot who have pledged to defund Planned Parenthood health services and define “personhood” in a manner that could outlaw many common forms of birth control and in vitro fertilization. That’s why we’re taking action.
Last weekend, our Planned Parenthood of Northern New England (PPNNE) Action Fund launched its Women are Watching campaign for the 2012 election cycle with an event celebrating NH Senator Jeanne Shaheen and featuring Planned Parenthood Action Fund President Cecile Richards.
It was amazing to see the hundreds of Planned Parenthood supporters from across the state who turned out to share their commitment to protecting women’s health. From college students to health care professionals, numerous women and men rely on PPNNE health centers for their everyday primary health care. Many of them are troubled by the divisive rhetoric against Planned Parenthood, and motivated to engage their friends and family to elect pro-women’s health candidates up and down the ballot in 2012. As part of our Women are Watching event they made posters, recorded personal narratives, and signed up to volunteer. They are not only watching, they are engaging. Most importantly, they will be voting.
Here at the PPNNE Action Fund, we are harnessing their energy and preparing for legislative and electoral battles in 2012. We are recruiting and supporting candidates who want to promote and protect access to women’s health care. Our early efforts are focused on unseating the Executive Councilors who voted to take basic health care away from thousands of Planned Parenthood New Hampshire patients, and we are thrilled to be supporting Colin Van Ostern as he challenges the decisive vote in our defund battle, Councilor Dan St. Hilaire.
After today, the eyes of the nation may move on to South Carolina or Florida, but here in New Hampshire, women are committed to staying vigilant as we watch what the candidates say and do on the issue of women’s health. And in case you missed it, make sure to watch the video from our first Women are Watching kickoff event and hear what the women had to say.