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At Roe rallies, activists and supporters call abortion an essential health care right

Supporters of reproductive rights rallied this weekend to call abortion a basic right of health care.

At one New Hampshire event, in a park at the edge of Portsmouth Harbor, Michelle Cilley Foisy shared her story of having a medical abortion 16 years ago, due to a fatal fetal anomaly.

“Up until last week,” she said, “I would tell people I felt safe with that I had a medical termination because of Kayla's body not being able to survive outside of mine. I now say that I had an abortion, and it was the right decision for myself and my family."

Michelle Cilley Foisy - Portsmouth, NH rally 051422 NHPR photo DT.JPG
Dan Tuohy / NHPR
Michelle Cilley Foisy of Temple, N.H., shares a personal story during the rally in Portsmouth on May 14, 2022.

The rally was one of many held around the state and nationwide in response to the U.S. Supreme Court's leaked draft opinion that would overturn Roe V. Wade.

In Portsmouth, as at the State House, speakers said abortion care is synonymous with health care.

Sandi Denoncour, executive director of the Joan G. Lovering Health Center, said threats to her center’s work, and to reproductive choice in New Hampshire, are real. She recounted the state Executive Council blocking contracts for state family planning funding – which, at Lovering, was a funding loss of about 20%.

“We believe it honors the right of every person to make decisions about their bodies, their future, and their families,” Denoncour said. “In Joan G. Lovering’s honor and in her name, we’ve been providing abortion care on the seacoast for 41 years. We continue to do that without apology and without hesitation and we are not going anywhere.”

Sandi Denoncour - Lovering Health Center, Greenland, NH. NHPR photo / Dan Tuohy
Dan Tuohy / NHPR
Sandi Denoncour, executive director of the Lovering Health Center.

Several groups organized the Portsmouth event, including the New Hampshire Women’s Foundation, Planned Parenthood of Northern New England, the Reproductive Freedom Fund, and the ACLU of New Hampshire.

Ally Long, a senior at Dover High School, was among the organizers. She started to plan something right after reading the leaked draft opinion on Roe V. Wade.

“I thought we have to make a stand,” she said. “We have to have our voices heard.”

Ally Long, Dover High School student, co-organizer of the Portsmouth abortion rights rally. NHPR photo
Dan Tuohy / NHPR
Ally Long, 18, a senior at Dover High School, was one of the rally organizers.

U.S. Sen. Maggie Hassan and state Sens. Rebecca Perkins Kwoka and Tom Sherman were among the speakers in Portsmouth.

“In the Live Free Or Die state, we stay out of people’s bedrooms and we stay out of people’s doctor’s offices,” said Sherman, “and I refuse to let New Hampshire move backwards.”

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