If you were born after 1973, you’ve never known a time when abortion wasn’t legal and accessible. Perhaps the most influential woman in the New Hampshire abortion rights movement was Joan G. Lovering.
In 2011 the Feminist Health Center of Portsmouth was renamed the Joan G. Lovering Health Center in her honor. Lovering was one of the founding women of the Concord Feminist Health Center and then six years later played a major role in the opening of the Feminist Health Center of Portsmouth. In the United States, abortion became legal after the 1973 Supreme Court case Roe v. Wade. Shortly after, a group of women committed to offering Granite State women a safe and confidential place to obtain abortion procedures began meeting in the Concord, NH library. They discussed the need for a feminist health center model, based on the ideals of empowerment and choice.
In 1974 New Hampshire Women’s Health Services opened its doors. The sole purpose and service was providing abortion procedures. Under the executive leadership of Joan G. Lovering the center thrived. The center made the then radical decision to form a collective style of organizational structure in 1976. In 1978, the women decided that they had a moral obligation to make choice real in New Hampshire and opted to use their resources to open an additional clinic. According to their statistics, the population that was traveling the most to get to the Concord clinic came from the seacoast. They made a plan and Lovering led the movement to open a place in Portsmouth.
The Concord Feminist Health Center and the Feminist Health Center of Portsmouth officially split into two separate autonomous organizations in 1987.
New Hampshire becoming and remaining a pro-choice state can be attributed in part to Lovering’s commitment to women and her advocacy for reproductive rights. In 1982, Lovering was honored as the recipient of the Susan B. Anthony Award, presented by the Manchester YWCA for outstanding service to New Hampshire women.
After leaving her leadership position at the Feminist Health Center, she continued to be a champion for health by working in hospice and hospital settings assisting with community outreach, support and education. In addition to all her activist activities and the never ending work of building a health care system responsive to women, she and her husband raised six children and enjoyed eleven grandchildren and two great grandchildren. In 2002, Lovering passed away at age 69. She is missed, but her legacy lives on and many young women who will never know her still benefit from the work that she did.
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