Here, in snooty New England, it’s tempting to look down our noses at Texas, a state crawling with big cowboy hats and small politicians.
The Texas state Legislature passed a law that would make the Stasi in the former East Germany proud, offering bounties to people to turn in anyone they think might have assisted someone in getting an abortion. It’s a law written in equal parts of misogyny and cynicism. The Texas governor who signed that de facto abortion ban also banned mask mandates.
But you don’t have to go to Texas to see how absurd, hypocritical, and intertwined the male-led campaign to control women’s bodies and ignore science has become.
If you’re heading north on Interstate 93 for some leaf peeping, consider taking Exit 14 in Concord, N.H., for some Neanderthal peeping, where, under the golden dome of the state Capitol, you will find a bunch of reactionaries who would give that crowd in Austin a run for their money.
While New Hampshire’s congressional delegation are all Democrats, and three of the four are women, the state’s Legislature is controlled by Republican men who want New Hampshire to become the Texas of New England.
Although their previous House speaker died from COVID, Republican legislators in New Hampshire are hellbent on banning mask and vaccine mandates. They have filed more than two dozen requests for bills challenging mask and vaccine mandates imposed by local municipalities, private businesses, and public schools.
They have also filed a bevy of antiabortion bills, including one styled on the Texas ban; defunded family planning clinics; and inserted language into this year’s budget that forces women to get an ultrasound before getting an abortion at any stage of pregnancy.
In February, the Republican-led House passed two antiabortion bills even after they came before the House with bipartisan committee votes against them.
At the same time they insist the government has a right to invade a woman’s privacy and restrict her reproductive freedom, Republican legislators insist the government has no right to tell someone to wear a mask or get a vaccine to limit the spread of a disease that killed their former leader.
Hypocrisy? Irony? Madness?
Pity poor Kayla Montgomery. As the vice president of public affairs for Planned Parenthood New Hampshire Action Fund, she will be forced to spend much of the next year testifying against a slew of antiabortion bills, surrounded by people who refuse to wear a mask.
Montgomery has two kids, a daughter who will turn 1 next month and an almost 4-year-old son, who are too young to be vaccinated against COVID.
“New Hampshire has a long bipartisan history of supporting privacy in reproductive health, and New Hampshire has always tended to support privacy and personal freedom,” she told me. “That’s why this year has been so outrageous. It’s a big change, not for the good.”
Last month, former Republican state reps Elizabeth Hager and Alida Millham wrote an op-ed for the Concord Monitor, bemoaning the end of a long bipartisan tradition of Granite Staters supporting privacy for personal medical decisions, including abortion.
New Hampshire has historically been a leader in gender equity in politics. In 2009, the state’s 24-member Senate became the nation’s first legislative chamber to reach gender equity, while in 2013 New Hampshire became the first state to have an all-female congressional delegation.
But while its national politics remain moderate, its unwieldy Legislature has veered to the right and become less representative of the electorate. The 400-member House of Representatives is 65 percent male, and 206 of the 400 are Republicans whose average age is the late 60s.
You read that right. There are 400 members in the New Hampshire House of Representatives, four times the number of many states, and twice as many as the state with the second most, Pennsylvania, with 203.
New Hampshire reps are paid $200 a term, the same pay scale since 1889.
Which tells you everything you need to know.
In politics, as with everything in life, you get what you pay for.
Kevin Cullen is a Globe columnist. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.