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Op-ed: Post Roe v. Wade, Together We Fight On

Op-ed: Post Roe v. Wade, Together We Fight On

n abortion-rights demonstrator holds a sign during a rally, May 14, 2022, in Chattanooga, Tenn. On Monday, Jan. 8, 2024, more women joined a Tennessee lawsuit challenging the state’s broad abortion ban that went into effect shortly after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade in 2022. (AP Photo/Ben Margot, File)

By Nicole Clegg

January 22, 2024

For years, the month of January meant three constants in my life: a new year with new priorities, the beginning of the next legislative session, and the anniversary of Roe v. Wade, the case that, up until June 2022, guaranteed access to safe and legal abortion across the country. After the Supreme Court overturned Roe and states were given the power to ban essential health care, tens of millions of people were stripped of their right to make their personal medical decisions, and the consequences have been devastating. One in three women can no longer access an abortion in their home state and a patient’s ability to control their own body and future has been reduced to their zip code.  

As Interim CEO of Planned Parenthood of Northern New England (PPNNE) – the largest reproductive and sexual health care provider across Maine, New Hampshire, and Vermont – I am keenly aware of our responsibility. We represent three of the dwindling number of states where abortion rights are still standing. We must not only fight for and expand access to abortion care but to act as a beacon of light in these very dark times for all the patients who need us. 

According to a new study by the Guttmacher Institute, nearly one in five patients are now traveling out of state for abortion, due to abortion bans and restrictions. These bans are quite literally jeopardizing lives, as was the case for Texas patient Kate Cox, who was denied a medically necessary abortion in December. As the legal battle played out in court, Cox’s health deteriorated, and she visited the emergency room multiple times. Ultimately, Cox left the state to protect her health and obtain her abortion.  

At PPNNE, patients sometimes travel thousands of miles to receive their essential, time-sensitive abortion care with us. We saw a patient fly to us from Florida to receive their abortion due to restrictions in their home state and confidentiality concerns. We helped a mom from North Carolina, who worried she would have to choose between buying food for her children and affording her abortion. We were there for an uninsured patient living below the federal poverty level from Alabama, who had to travel out of state due to bans and restrictions. PPNNE’s abortion access fund, the Laura Fund, ensured none of these patients were turned away due to an inability to pay.  

These patients had to pay for travel, lodging, food, childcare and had to miss work to receive a safe and common health care service that politicians — not doctors —dictated should no longer be accessible where they live.  

Since the loss of Roe, continuing to offer abortion as a service is not good enough simply; PPNNE believes we must take proactive steps to expand how and where abortion is offered in our region.  

Roughly 70% of our abortion patients chose medication abortion last year, also known as the abortion pill, which is a safe and effective way to end an early pregnancy. Our staff worked hard to expand medication abortion to more towns. It is now available at our St. Johnsbury, Vermont, and Derry, New Hampshire health centers, and virtually through our telehealth program in New Hampshire, Maine, and Vermont. And while access to medication abortion remains safe and legal right now, the United States Supreme Court is deciding a case this spring that could add medically unnecessary and politically motivated restrictions.  

PPNNE also continues to work tirelessly to keep abortion and the full range of reproductive health and rights intact in our region. New Hampshire is the only state in New England that doesn’t affirmatively put the right to abortion in our state laws or constitution – but together we can change that. We’ll continue to fight back on bans and restrictions on both abortion and gender-affirming care because we believe in the Granite State values of privacy and liberty – and know that the government has no place in these private medical decisions.   

As we look ahead, national court decisions will be made this spring that could dramatically impact abortion access and Planned Parenthood’s very future. These politically motivated cases ignore science and best medical practices with far-reaching consequences for patients. We must prepare for a national election in November that could pave the way for more restrictions, even a push for a national abortion ban.  

We have important work ahead in 2024 and PPNNE remains committed to being a light in the darkness for our patients and communities. The work has changed, but it hasn’t slowed and is more important than ever. Together with our activists, donors, and coalition partners, we will fight for as long as it takes until every person regains the freedom and power to control their bodies and lives.

Author

  • Nicole Clegg

    Nicole Clegg is the interim CEO of Planned Parenthood of Northern New England, the largest reproductive health care and sexuality education provider and advocate in Northern New England with health centers across New Hampshire, Maine, and Vermont.

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