Gubernatorial candidate Frank Edelblut, one of several Republican primary contenders, took fellow candidate Chris Sununu to task after Sununu flip-flopped on Planned Parenthood funding at today’s Executive Council meeting. I spoke with Edelblut briefly after the Council’s vote.
“We need a Governor who knows what he believes in,” he said. “Chris Sununu has been playing politics with this thing for the last week, maybe ten days, playing us, because he doesn’t know what he believes in. He just appropriated money to an agency that’s already overspent their budget by 16 million dollars, and just gave them another $600,000. That’s just wrong.”
Two other Republican gubernatorial candidates critical of Sununu’s vote weighed in via social media.
Ted Gatsas on Twitter:
.@ChrisSununu has betrayed NH taxpayers & turned his back on conservative grassroots activists. I will oppose @ppnne funding. #nhpolitics
Pro-life New Hampshire readers have probably already seen the recent alert from New Hampshire Right to Life, warning of an upcoming vote by the Executive Council that might send funds to Planned Parenthood of Northern New England, retroactive to what would have been the starting date of the contract that the Council rejected last August. Call your Councilor, says NHRTL, and I second that.
A few thoughts, in no particular order, with links to relevant posts:
The next Executive Council meeting is scheduled for Wednesday, June 29 at 10 a.m. at the State House. The agenda for the meeting won’t be posted publicly until just a few days in advance, at which time we’ll find out if the retroactive funding is indeed coming up for a vote. Here is a link to the web page where the agenda will be posted; when you see “June 29” listed as a meeting date, there will be a link to the agenda.
Look up your district here and your Councilor’s contact information here.
Recall that Councilors Joe Kenney, Chris Sununu, and Dave Wheeler voted to reject the PP contract last August. At that meeting, Kenney and Sununu both cited the Center for Medical Progress videos as a factor in their vote. Those videos feature PP employees discussing trafficking in body parts, with a PP medical professional describing her willingness to alter abortion procedures not to provide the best care to women but to extract the most lucrative intact fetal organs.
I was at the August 2015 meeting and heard the discussion that preceded the vote. Sununu said something that got short shrift from some of his colleagues and Governor Hassan: “I’m pro-choice and I support Planned Parenthood, but in my district, women have no [other] choice.” From my report on the meeting: “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.“
Those constituents need to get on the phone again. Sununu voted in favor of a PPNNE contract in 2011, and against one in 2015. A swing vote, for sure.
Oh, the (in)humanity: In August, Councilor Chris Pappas said it would be inhumane to deny PP its contract. He then expressed reservations about the CMP videos. It was unclear whether he had watched the videos or whether he might flag any part of the content “inhumane.”
Dismissing his colleagues’ concerns about the CMP videos, Councilor Colin Van Ostern (now seeking the Democratic nomination for Governor) called opposition to the August contract “ideology” and the CMP videos “heavily edited.” He has had ten months since then to view the unedited videos, still available online.
Governor Hassan, in an unguarded (but on-the-record) moment at the August meeting, said before the PP contract vote, “I’m sure Planned Parenthood would review its operations if this was voted down.” When the contract was voted down a few minutes later, Hassan’s team was ready with a blistering press release: “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.” No mention there of PP reviewing its operations. Likewise, there was no mention of how the health and economic well-being of thousands of Granite Staters could be hurt by removing only $319,000 from PPNNE’s $20 million annual budget. (Remember, the denied contract was for $638,000 over two years.)
Note that no one on the Council intends to retire from public office this year.
Councilor Colin Van Ostern, a Democrat, is running for Governor. So is Chris Sununu, a Republican.
Councilors Joe Kenney (R), Chris Pappas (D), and Dave Wheeler (R) are running to keep their Council seats.
As for Governor Maggie Hassan (D), she is running for the U.S. Senate seat currently held by Kelly Ayotte.
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.