By Jackie Cilley
New Hampshire gubernatorial candidate
It comes as no surprise that Speaker Bill O’Brien took exception to my forceful defense of women's rights and sent out a press release attacking my efforts to fight for the women of New Hampshire. After all, this is the same man who harassed a well-respected female Republican legislator forcing her to submit anti-bullying bill for State Legislators. Bullies don’t like people who stand up for their rights and I will most assuredly stand up for the rights of all women in our state – and I will do so without apology.
The Speaker is well aware that the pending legislation he quietly slipped into an unrelated bill strips health care coverage for contraception from New Hampshire’s women. It has nothing to do with the smoke screen of religious freedom he is hiding behind. As Rev. Richard Slater, associate conference minister with the United Church of Christ, stated in his response to the anti-women legislation, “Our voices, the voices of the religious community throughout the state of New Hampshire, have not been consulted….We find this legislation and its impingement on access to contraception to be appalling.”
Furthermore, the bill he proposed goes much further than allowing religiously affiliated organizations to exclude coverage for contraception and allows all employers to exclude birth control from insurance coverage for their employees. More than 13 years ago Republicans and Democrats came together to require insurers to provide coverage for contraceptive care for the women of New Hampshire. Speaker O’Brien is right – this was not a partisan issue until he made it one. But it isn’t between Republicans and Democrats, it is between Free Stater/Tea Party legislators and all other political affiliations in our state.
If the Speaker labors under the misguided assumption that I will back down from encouraging Granite State women to raise their voices in unison against the attacks this legislature has perpetrated on them, he is very much mistaken. I will not back down from bullies and I don’t believe the women of our proud state – women from across the political spectrum – will back down either.