Vice-President Pence broke a tie in the U.S. Senate yesterday. What passed, thanks to him and 50 Senators, was effectively a repeal of an Obama policy penalizing states that refuse to do business with abortion providers. H.J. Res. 43 is the name of the repeal resolution.
Senators Shaheen and Hassan of New Hampshire were perfectly happy with the Obama policy and they voted against the repeal.
The former president signed his policy on his way out the door, almost literally: it went into effect two days before he left office. Marjorie Dannenfelser of the Susan B. Anthony list has called it his parting gift to Planned Parenthood. Last month the House, led by Rep. Diane Black, voted to repeal Obama’s policy. The Senate effort was led by Sen. Joni Ernst.
I hope that by the time you read this, President Trump’s approval will have made repeal a done deal.
What repeal does NOT do: change the amount of any appropriation for family planning under Title X. Repeat: zero effect on the amount of money the federal government allocates to states for family planning programs (which, to hear some folks talk, is all there is to women’s health).
What repeal WILL do: allow states to decide for themselves, without any federal penalty, whether to grant Title X family planning contracts to agencies that perform abortions.
Planned Parenthood hates the repeal resolution. Their respect for women apparently ends when a woman decides to resist the abortion providers reaching into her wallet.
I’m one such woman. I know that abortion isn’t health care. And I’m not alone.
On April 18, attorneys for the plaintiffs in Reddy v. Foster filed notice of appeal to the United States Court of Appeals, First Circuit, asking that the recent dismissal of the case by a lower court be set aside. Briefs and arguments for the appeal are still months away.
In Reddy, seven pro-life plaintiffs challenged the constitutionality of New Hampshire’s buffer zone law, which authorizes abortion providers to prohibit peaceful pro-life witness outside abortion facilities. Federal Court Judge Joseph Laplante recently dismissed the case, ruling that plaintiffs did not have standing to sue since no abortion provider had yet posted a zone.
Even with the dismissal of the lawsuit, peaceful pro-life witness outside New Hampshire abortion facilities without posted buffer zones remains protected under the First Amendment. If you see a zone posted, please note the location and send me a message at email@example.com.
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.
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.
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.
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.
New Hampshire Right to Life today petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court for a hearing to order the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to provide documents regarding a 2011 grant to Planned Parenthood of Northern New England. NHRTL originally filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request in October 2011 for documents about the sole-source non-competitive grant.
Attorneys for NHRTL say in today’s filing,
“The purpose of NHRTL’s requests was to expose what it considered an improper and potentially unlawful funding decision by HHS….[whose] decision to award Planned Parenthood a direct non-competitive grant was made hastily, in secret, and contrary to the usual protocols for awarding grants. Documents released by HHS showed that HHS was paying Planned Parenthood for birth control pills at nearly four times what Wal-Mart charged customers for the same pills. In addition, NHRTL suspected, as had the New Hampshire Executive Council, that Planned Parenthood was unlawfully using federal funds to subsidize abortion services, and that HHS knew that these federal funds were being used to subsidize abortions.”
The HHS grant in question was made shortly after the New Hampshire Executive Council rejected a Title X (ten) family planning contract with PPNNE in June 2011. Title X funds, while federal in origin, are administered by the states. Three months after the Executive Council vote, HHS in a surprise move made federal funds available to PPNNE, independent of any Executive Council oversight. NHRTL filed its FOIA request in October 2011 an effort to make public the process by which these funds were granted. A federal lawsuit followed after HHS did not produce documents in a timely fashion.
Some but not all of the requested documents relating to the grant have since been produced, some in redacted form. HHS has claimed the redactions and omissions are allowed under two exemptions within the FOIA law. That claim has been upheld in lower courts. NHRTL’s petition to the Supreme Court asserts in part that the U.S. First Circuit Court of Appeals ruling in this case creates a conflict with rulings on FOIA cases in three other Circuits.
One point of contention between the parties is the demand for public production of the PPNNE Medical Manual, outlining policies and procedures for operating a Title X federally-funded planning facility. According to today’s filing, such information is normally required by HHS as a condition for family planning grant funding. The First Circuit ruled that production of the manual and certain other documents would give an unfair advantage to a “potential future competitor” to PPNNE in future grant competitions. NHRTL notes in its petition that three other Circuits have ruled that FOIA exemptions refer to actual rather than potential competition.
NHRTL is also challenging an HHS decision to withhold some documents on the grounds that they refer to a deliberative pre-decision process, another FOIA exemption.
NHRTL is represented in New Hampshire Right to Life v. United States Department of Health and Human Services by Manchester attorney Michael Tierney and attorneys with Alliance Defending Freedom.
Leaven for the Loaf will continue to cover this case as it develops.
Three Democrats bucked their party by opposing the ITL: Roger Berube (D-Somersworth), Amanda Bouldin (D-Manchester), Alan Cohen (D-Nashua). The other 139 votes against ITL came from Republicans.
A Republican representative has advised me that the speaker’s leadership team did not take a formal position beyond advising the Republican caucus that the Judiciary Committee had recommended ITL. Majority Leader Jack Flanagan (R-Brookline) and Deputy Speaker Gene Chandler (R-Bartlett) voted ITL; majority whip Dick Hinch (R-Merrimack) opposed the motion; Speaker Shawn Jasper of Hudson was presiding and did not vote.
Thirty-eight representatives are listed as “not voting.” That makes no distinction between excused absences and simply ducking the bill. The House Journal for the day’s proceedings will be ready in a week or so, with excused absences listed.
When a similar bill came up in 2012, (HB 228, also sponsored by Rep. Groen), the House voted to pass it, 207-147. The Senate later tabled the bill.