Dear Members of the House Judiciary Committee,
Thank you for receiving my testimony today.
I am the Rev. Heidi Carrington Heath. I am an ordained Christian minister, and have served in multiple chaplaincy roles now for almost a decade, including as a Labor and Delivery and NICU Chaplain. I have walked with women and birthing people at the best, and very worst moments of their lives. I’ve blessed beautiful, healthy babies within 24 hours of birth, held dead and dying babies in my hands, and sat with inconsolable mothers as they grieved their deeply wanted children. It is the deepest, and most sacred responsibility of my professional life, and I do not take it lightly.
I write to you today in strong support of HB1674: An Act Relative to Reproductive Rights. This bill would enshrine into law critical protections for women and birthing people across the Granite State. Healthcare is an essential human right. Abortion is healthcare. No more, and no less. It is a fundamental bedrock of ensuring that the citizens of any state can make appropriate health care decisions in conjunction with their medical providers, clergy, therapists, and other trusted supports free from shame, government interference, or undue pressure.
Enshrining access to abortion care into law is who we are as the state of New Hampshire. Our state motto is live free, or die. We can be sure that women and birthing people who cannot access appropriate, timely, safe abortion care will die. That is not hyperbole. It is simply the truth. I have seen first hand the physical and psychological impacts on pregnant patients who were not able to access the care they needed in a timely fashion. I have been in the delivery room when a woman who was denied access to a third trimester abortion nearly bled out on the table amidst a complicated delivery of a non-viable pregnancy. I will never forget the sound of her screams as we transported her, bleeding, from the lobby of the hospital (where she had arrived by car, too afraid to call an ambulance).
As a practicing Christian, I am pro-faith, pro-family, and pro-choice. I am pro-choice not in spite of my faith, but because of it. My faith compels me to stand with those who seek safe, legal access to abortion care. Abortion is healthcare. Abortion is life saving, life giving care. What could be more faithful than that? I honor the sometimes complex, and compassionate choices that pregnant people seek to make.
Moreover, I am a deep supporter of the principles of religious freedom upon which our country was founded. Each of us is guaranteed the right to make our own choices, according to our own religious beliefs, and not to be required to conduct our healthcare by the principles of someone else’s ethics. Additionally, my Christian faith encourages me to look out for those who may be left behind by those in power. Any limitation or restriction on abortion access disproportionately impacts low-income people, BIPOC women, young adults, and those in rural communities (of which NH has many).
For these reasons, and many more, I urge you to vote Ought to Pass on HB1674, and to abide by the values of freedom and choice that NH has claimed as our own for centuries. People of faith, and people across the granite state are counting on your leadership. Thank you for your time.
The Rev. Heidi Carrington Heath
Chaplain and United Church of Christ Clergy