NH Exec Councilors say “no” to PP contract

(Updated 3:30 p.m.)

The New Hampshire Executive Council on Wednesday, in a sharply divided vote, denied a contract to Planned Parenthood of Northern New England that would have given PPNNE $638,900 over a two-year period. The vote follows the release of the fifth video by the Center for Medical Progress showing Planned Parenthood personnel in other states procuring body parts of aborted children and discussing pricing for various specimens.

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Standing room only as NH Executive Council votes on Planned Parenthood contract. Kevin Avard photo.

Councilor Chris Sununu (R-Newfields), who had declined before the meeting to indicate how he would vote, opposed the contract, He had supported a Planned Parenthood contract in 2011. On Wednesday, he joined Councilors Joe Kenney (R-Union) and David Wheeler (R-Milford) in the majority. Councilors Colin Van Ostern (D-Concord) and Christopher Pappas (D-Manchester) supported the contract with PP.

Governor Maggie Hassan said before the vote, “I’m sure Planned Parenthood would review its operations if this was voted down.” Her official statement after the vote made no such assurance.

Councilor Chris Sununu (nh.gov photo)
Councilor Chris Sununu (nh.gov photo)

In the discussion preceding the vote, Sununu said “I’m pro-choice and I support Planned Parenthood, but in my district, women have no [other] choice.” He unsuccessfully urged Hassan and his fellow Councilors to “take a step back” and support a study of health care options in Sununu’s southeastern New Hampshire district. He said he got calls from constituents who wanted family planning services but not at Planned Parenthood. He also expressed concern about activities at other Planned Parenthood affiliates documented in the CMP videos, which were dismissed by Hassan, Van Ostern and Pappas (in identical language) as “heavily edited.” “I’ve watched that video cover to cover with no edits,” said Sununu. “I’m pro-choice, but that’s not the issue here.”

Kenney acknowledged that he would vote against the PP contract because of the revelations in the CMP videos. “I’m not comfortable voting for anything with Planned Parenthood’s name on it. And the people against this contract that I got calls from were women.”

Pappas said it would be “inhumane” to deny PP its contract, and he criticized reliance on the CMP videos. Van Ostern called opposition to the contract “ideology.”

The Governor and Wheeler had a sharp exchange after Wheeler reminded her that he had called on her earlier in the week to order an investigation into PPNNE. He pointed out the push for such an investigation on the federal level. “You can’t divorce what’s going on nationally from Planned Parenthood of Northern New England.” Hassan replied that she was “surprised” any Councilor would suggest that New Hampshire follow the federal government’s lead.

Gov. Maggie Hassan (nh.gov photo)
Gov. Maggie Hassan (nh.gov photo)

Hassan proclaimed herself “incredibly disappointed” by the Council’s decision. (In New Hampshire, the Governor has no veto power over Council decisions.) “It is clear that today’s vote is the result of an ideological and political attack against Planned Parenthood and a woman’s right to make her own healthcare decisions …The council’s vote to defund Planned Parenthood will hurt the health and economic well-being of thousands of Granite Staters.”

Hassan’s statement made no reference to the fact that the Council today approved family planning contracts with three other agencies, two of them abortion providers. All the family planning contracts had been presented to the Council in a single package before Kenney asked that the contracts be unbundled, allowing action on one to leave others unaffected.

Planned Parenthood New Hampshire Action Fund held a rally in front of the State House before the vote. The group posted an online statement before the vote warning that health care for 12,000 women would be at risk if the contract was denied. The proposed contract amount over two years was roughly two-thirds of what PPNNE spent on fundraising in 2014, or about 40% of what it spent on public policy the same year.  PPNNE has also strongly denied that it is involved in what it calls “voluntary fetal tissue donation” – a term copied by Governor Hassan Wednesday.

Planned Parenthood of Northern New England’s PAC and Action Fund spent more than $15,700 to support Hassan’s 2014 gubernatorial campaign. The same groups spent $30,400 on Executive Council races.


 

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