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Keene hosts funeral to mark 2 years of the fall of abortion rights in the country

Keene hosts funeral to mark 2 years of the fall of abortion rights in the country

Tombstone designed by Adam Schepker representing the 49-year-long span of abortion rights granted by landmark 1973 Supreme Court judgment Roe v. Wade that was overturned in 2022. (Courtesy Mrinali Dhembla)

By Mrinali Dhembla

June 25, 2024

A six-foot tall tombstone reading, “Here lies all our reproductive freedom” sat on Central Square in Keene on Saturday afternoon, as almost 100 people marked its periphery, mourning the death of abortion rights in America. 

The tombstone by Harrisville-based artist Adam Schepker was created for the event to represent the 49-year-long span of reproductive rights granted by landmark 1973 Supreme Court judgment Roe v. Wade, which in a 5-4 decision, was struck down on June 24, 2022. 

The event—which the organizers called a “funeral”— commemorated the second anniversary of the Dobbs v. Jackson decision by the US Supreme Court. 

The Mississippi-originated case challenged the constitutionality of a 15-day abortion ban, which led to the reversal of Roe V. Wade that ended federal protections for abortions in the entire country. 

‘Just as angry today:’ Abortion access key election issue for Granite Staters 

Since the striking of Roe v. Wade, states are moving in different directions when it comes to reproductive rights, with New Hampshire restricting abortion at 24 weeks. 

“I am here today because I did this 60 years ago, and I am doing it again, unfortunately,” said attendee Katheryn Waterwan, 83. 

Even before Roe was overruled, New Hampshire saw efforts that tried to restrain access to abortion. In 2022, just before the fall of Roe, New Hampshire rejected efforts to enshrine abortion rights in the state. In January 2021, Gov. Sununu signed a law that restricted abortion to its current 24-week limit and required every pregnant person to get an ultrasound—a mandate that was lifted later—for every abortion visit. Prior to that there were no gestational limits to abortion in the state. 

Since 2012, all persons under 18 need to notify parents, or seek a judicial bypass—a process where a judge can grant permission to seek an abortion. 

The funeral was organized by grassroots organization called Monadnock for Choice, which was founded by a group of seven women based in the Monadnock Region in January this year. 

“There is this myth that people in New Hampshire are not upset because of our 24-week ban,” said Susan Hay, one of the co-founders of the organization. “We are as angry today as we were when this happened and are working to make sure that it is front and center in the election.”

Hay mentioned that as soon as the members of Monadnock for Choice realized the two-year anniversary of the overturning of Roe v. Wade was coming up this month, they planned to hold a funeral-style gathering, featuring a speech by Lebanon City Councilor Karen Liot Hill, and tombstone art by Schepker. Hill is also running for executive council for District 2, which includes parts of Grafton, Merrimack, Sullivan, and Cheshire counties. 

“I truly believe that women’s rights are part of healthcare, and women should have the right to decide on such matters on their own,” said attendee Mohammad Saleh. “We’re definitely taking a step backward, which is not good for society.”

The ban has resulted in Republican-led legislative efforts on a state level to further restrict abortion access, with New Hampshire House Republicans trying to ban abortion after 15 days of gestation earlier this year. That bill was shot down in early stages. 

Restrictions haven’t deterred abortions

“Our freedom has come under attack, and even basic contraception is no longer guaranteed,” Hill said in her speech to the crowd. “I am angry that we are going backwards. I am angry that we cannot decide for ourselves when, or how, or whether to have a family.”

Since the fall of Roe, more out-of-state residents from states with stringent abortion bans have turned to New Hampshire for care, causing longer wait times. In other cases, people from states with similar abortion laws, such as Massachusetts, were coming into New Hampshire due to long wait times in their own states. Between July 2022 and June 2023, Planned Parenthood of Northern New England, which serves patients in New Hampshire, Maine, and Vermont, provided almost 3,000 abortions. 

In the US overall, more than a million clinician-provided abortions were carried out in 2023, according to a report by the Guttmacher Institute, a nonprofit that aims to expand reproductive rights worldwide. Between January and March this year, almost 277, 440 abortions were carried out in the country, with almost 800 in New Hampshire, according to the organization’s latest available statistics.

“I am not letting decisions like this happen again as best I can,” said Schepker, the sculptor of the tombstone, adding that he looks forward to being a part of a burning ceremony for his artwork “if” and “when” abortion rights are brought back to people in the country.

Author

  • Mrinali Dhembla

    Based in Manchester, Mrinali Dhembla is Granite Post's multimedia reporter. She's previously worked as deputy editor at The Keene Sentinel, and has experience writing for many national and international publications. When not doing journalism, she likes to cook food (and eat it).

VIDEO: RIP Abortion Rights

VIDEO: RIP Abortion Rights

Monadnock for Choice, a grassroots group from the Monadnock Region, held a "funeral" on Central Square in Keene last Saturday to mourn the death of...

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