This year, we are proud to honor three women of extraordinary courage, commitment and compassion: Barbara Keshen, Demetria McKaig, and Susan Arnold. On October 16, the ACLU of New Hampshire will present these fearless advocates with our Bill of Rights Award for their contributions defending individual freedoms in the courts and the legislature.
When Barbara Keshen accepted ACLU of NH’s offer to be our staff attorney in 2006 she wasn’t sure one lawyer could significantly impact civil rights laws in New Hampshire. Her years as a New Hampshire Public Defender and as an assistant Attorney General prepared her well for the landmark cases she became known for. During her seven years with us, Barbara took on the most difficult cases as well as fundamentally important but unpopular ones. Her victories and challenges improved our civil justice system and preserved constitutional rights.
Demetria McKaig endured a four-year long ordeal for doing her job. In her case, that meant protecting the rights of a pregnant high school teenager and successfully challenging the school board’s retaliatory actions all the way up to the state Supreme Court. This case started in 2012 when a Farmington High School student told Demetria, her school counselor, that she was pregnant and wanted to have an abortion. A dispute between Demetria and the school principal about the student’s legal rights led to the involvement of the ACLU of NH, which was ultimately able to protect the student’s rights.
Four months later however, Demetria was notified by the school superintendent that her contract was not renewed because of her efforts to help the student. In April of this year, the state Supreme Court ruled that Demetria be reinstated because the school’s retaliatory non renewal decision was inappropriate.
Susan Arnold has been active in the pro-choice movement in New Hampshire for more than three decades. She began as a Field Organizer for NARAL New Hampshire and later was promoted to Political Director. One of Susan’s most impactful achievements was co-directing a phoning project to identify 20,000 pro-choice Republican and Independent female voters for the 1992 presidential election. Susan was NARAL’s primary legislative lobbyist and developed a bipartisan legislative caucus to defeat anti-choice legislation. She was elected to NARAL New Hampshire’s Board of Directors in the late 1990s, around the time U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen hired her as her Director of Policy. Susan has been the Chair of NARAL Pro-Choice New Hampshire’s Board of Directors for more than a dozen years. She leaves a strong legacy of supporting pro-choice legislators and leading the charge to protect the reproduc
tive rights of women in New Hampshire.