Both Dems Running For N.H. Governor Are Talking About Abortion, But Only One Is Getting Specific

Jul 11, 2018

Democratic Gubernatorial candidates Steve Marchand and Molly Kelly
Credit Josh Rogers for NHPR

Abortion rights have become a major issue in New Hampshire's Democratic gubernatorial primary.

“The confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court, means in almost certain terms the overturning of Roe V. Wade.”

That was Steve Marchand speaking in Portsmouth Tuesday.

And here's what Molly Kelly said while campaigning in Manchester two weeks ago:

"Justice Kennedy’s retirement is a critical reminder of the role states must play to fill the void left by the Trump administration."

But while both candidates see the state’s role in protecting abortion rights as critical they’ve so far defined that role differently.

"Abortion is an emotional and difficult topic but in the context of state policy, it is a medical procedure and should be treated as such," Steve Marchand said as he stood in front of Portsmouth's North Church.

For Marchand, that means abortion should be spelled out as legal in state statute, and that tax dollars should be used to pay for abortions.

“I believe in the public funding of abortion services," he said. "Currently, Medicaid dollars may only be used in the cases of rape, incest, and life endangerment of the mother. This has the effect of creating more choice for those with more means and less choice for those with fewer means.”

Molly Kelly’s has so far steered clear of any specific policy proposal. When asked how she would protect abortion rights when Justice Anthony Kennedy first announced his retirement, Kelly kept things pretty general.

“Well, what I would do as governor is stand up every single day for womens’ rights and stand with Planned Parenthood as well," she said.

So far, Kelly has also declined direct comment on Marchand’s proposal to use tax money to pay for abortions. Last week, her campaign said that "women in New Hampshire know they can count on Molly--more than Chris Sununu or any candidate for governor--to protect women's access to a safe, legal abortion." 

This week, Kelly herself said she would always champion a woman’s right to privacy, but as for the details, they aren’t there yet.

“I am going to put out a policy and you will be one of the first to see that, that will be very clear, as I’ve said, on where I stand, where I’ve always stood.”

With the changing makeup at the Supreme court, one question for Democratic voters concerned about abortion rights - and for the candidates themselves - is whether that ground is shifting.