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Democratic governor candidate says abortion law 'puts New Hampshire women in extreme risk'

Dr. Tom Sherman said he would work to codify Roe v. Wade in state law if elected.

By Kaishi Chhabra - November 02, 2022
Tom Sherman
FILE - then-New Hampshire state Rep. Tom Sherman, D-Rye, center, and state Sen. Nancy Stiles, R-Hampton, listen to state Sen. Andy Sanborn on Oct. 2, 2013, in Concord, N.H. Gov. Chris Sununu and Sherman, the state senator challenging him, debated energy policy, abortion and more Tuesday, Oct. 25, 2022, with the Republican incumbent emphasizing his track record and the Democratic challenger arguing the state has veered off track. (AP Photo/Jim Cole, File)

Dr. Tom Sherman is the Democratic nominee for governor of New Hampshire running against incumbent Republican Gov. Chris Sununu.

“I’ve always felt that a woman should have the right to make her own health care decisions, period,” Sherman told the American Independent Foundation in an interview. “There’s just no role for the government being in between that process of medical decision-making.”

Although abortion is still legal in New Hampshire up to 24 weeks of pregnancy, the state does not have an affirmative legal right to an abortion in the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in June striking down Roe v. Wade. That means New Hampshire is the only state in New England where the right to abortion is not protected by state law.

New Hampshire voters consider abortion rights the second-most important issue facing the state after the economy and inflation, according to an August poll conducted by the Saint Anselm College Survey Center.

While both candidates say they want to protect abortion rights, Sununu supports abortion restrictions in the later stages of pregnancy.

Sherman, a physician, has served two terms as a state representative and two as a state senator. As the only medical doctor in the New Hampshire Senate, Sherman said, he sees his role as that of an educator on health care issues for his colleagues in the legislature.

Sherman, who in 2016 was one of four state lawmakers honored by the Planned Parenthood New Hampshire Action Fund PAC for their “commitment to women’s health,” said that if he is elected governor, he would work to repeal the state’s current 24-week ban on abortion.

Sununu signed the 24-week ban into law in June 2021 as part of the state’s budget. It originally required ultrasounds for any pregnant person seeking an abortion regardless of medical necessity, but in May, Sununu signed a bill that removed the ultrasound requirement and one that added an exception for cases in which the fetus has been diagnosed with “abnormalities incompatible with life.” There is also an exception if the life of the patient is at risk, but there are none in cases of rape or incest. Any health care provider violating the ban could face up to seven years in prison and be fined up to $100,000.

Planned Parenthood New Hampshire Action Fund called the ban “the most regressive anti-reproductive health care budget in New Hampshire history.”

New Hampshire Public Radio reported In May that Sununu told the host of the podcast “Three Martini Lunch” that he had done “more on the pro-life issue, if you will, than anyone.” In August, Sununu toured New England states to endorse or support other GOP gubernatorial candidates who vocally oppose abortion rights, which earned him criticism from pro-abortion advocates.

Sununu also continues to position himself as a supporter of abortion rights. “As a pro-choice governor, I am committed to upholding Roe v. Wade,” Sununu said in May. “So long as I am governor, these health care services for women will remain safe and legal.”

“Sununu was willing to sign a bill that forced a woman to have an invasive procedure, even though it wasn’t medically necessary,” Sherman told the American Independent Foundation. “To me, that is egregious. And if you can imagine a woman who is the victim of a sexual assault having to be instrumented to have an abortion, having to have something that’s unnecessary.”

“That abortion ban puts New Hampshire women in extreme risk,” he continued. “Because if they have a tragic complication in the third trimester, their team, their doctors and nurses have to make a decision: Does this threaten the life of the mother? Or is this only threatening the health of the mother? And if I move too slowly, the mother and the fetus may die. If I move too quickly, I may face a felony charge.”

During his term in the Legislature, Sherman helped negotiate Medicaid expansion, which significantly improved access to health care for low-income women.

According to Sherman’s campaign website, if elected, he “would work to codify Roe v. Wade in statute and affirm that women should have the freedom to choose.”

“My stance is that we replace Sununu’s abortion ban with the protections of Roe v. Wade because New Hampshire is the only state in New England that does not have an affirmative right to abortion in statute,” Sherman said.

A poll of New Hampshire residents conducted by the University of New Hampshire in June, before the Supreme Court decision overturning Roe v. Wade was issued, found that six in 10 opposed that decision.

In January, Republican New Hampshire House members introduced a ban on abortion at what amounted to six weeks gestation. While 83% of Republicans voted to move the bill forward, it died in the House.

Sununu did not voice his opinion of the bill.

“I think anyone in the state of New Hampshire who believes that Sununu will defend their reproductive rights or one’s right to make her own health care decisions is just not paying attention,” Sherman said.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.

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