We know now that every New Hampshire Executive Councilor knew when the June 29 meeting began how he intended to vote on the family planning contracts with two abortion providers. The prepared statement by Councilor Chris Sununu that was posted to social media immediately after the vote confirmed that his “swing” vote was swung some time ago.
State department heads or their deputies attend Council meetings in order to answer any questions the Councilors may have about proposed contracts. (That’s why most of the chairs in the chamber are taken by the time members of the public arrive.) Department of Health and Human Services Commissioner Jeffrey Meyers was on hand for questions from Councilors Joe Kenney and David Wheeler about the contracts with Planned Parenthood of Northern New England and the Joan Lovering Center.
Meyers, by the way, was confirmed as Commissioner in January. During the confirmation process, he told Councilors that he would bring back a PP contract. He followed through.
The Q and A at the Council meeting – almost entirely thanks to the diligence of Councilors Kenney and Wheeler – highlighted a few things not known by the general public. Family planning funds are tied into behavioral health money, for one thing. Another tidbit: the family planning funds may be used for agency “infrastructure.”
While Meyers’s intention regarding the contracts was clear, one Councilor told me that the actual contracts, totaling over a hundred pages, were not available to him for review until they were posted to the public, five days before the meeting.
Here are a few observations from the June 29th meeting at which Executive Councilors sent public funds to two abortion providers, including one that spent over a million bucks on public policy in 2014 while warning that thousands of people were at risk of losing health care if a $500k+ contract were to be denied. (Photo credits [or blame]: me.)
Yellow “Life” stickers and the usual pink t-shirts gathered early at the State House the day of the vote. I was surprised to see a heavy state police presence. I thought to myself Isn’t this a bit much? Then I learned that the police had nothing to do with competing rallies over the Council vote. Instead, there had been a scare over an unattended package that reportedly turned out to be a bag of clothing. The police response that I saw was thorough and courteous, and the rallies went on without incident.
Campaign material lined the walkways on State House Plaza before the meeting. These pro-Clinton bags set up the morning of the vote outnumbered the actual number of pro-PP people who rallied before the Council meeting.
The meeting began late, and after the usual preliminary business (Pledge of Allegiance, musical interlude, confirmations and appointments to state boards), Governor Hassan and the Councilors swiftly agreed to take up the Planned Parenthood/Lovering contract immediately. Stuffy though beautiful room plus many standees made that a welcome decision.
Seen in the crowd: retired Councilors Ray Wieczorek and Dan St. Hilaire, who were among the three Councilors who voted to deny a PP contract in 2011. The third of those Councilors, Dave Wheeler, is an incumbent, and he held firm to his position from 2011.
Noted on Councilors’ desks before the meeting: a bound volume from Planned Parenthood, declaring on the cover that 12,000 people depend on PP for basic health care. I obtained a copy after the meeting and found that the thick volume was not full of statistics or client stories, but instead lists of I-Stand-With-PP names, organized by Council district. Interesting numbers, considering that the districts are roughly equal in population: Joe Kenney’s district one (North Country) had 162 names; Colin Van Ostern’s district two (a sprawling gerrymander that includes Concord and Durham) had 661; Chris Sununu’s district 3 (Seacoast and much of Rockingham County) had 193; Chris Pappas’s district 4 (whose main municipality is Manchester) had 309; David Wheeler’s district 5 (main municipality: Nashua) had 184.
Councilor Sununu’s formal statement about his vote noted that PP was no longer under investigation. That is not accurate, and he knew it if he read material made available to all the Councilors by Councilor Wheeler. Part two of this post will include a transcript of Wheeler’s comments and questions during the meeting.
I saw these incumbents and candidates in the crowd, opposing the contracts and determined to watch the Councilors cast their votes: State representatives Frank Edelblut (now running for Governor), Ralph Boehm (now running for State Senate district 18), Jeanine Notter, Josh Moore, Gary Hopper, Victoria Sullivan, J.R. Hoell, Max Abramson, Kurt Wuelper, Mark McLean, Katherine Prudhomme-O’Brien; candidates Jim Adams (Executive Council District 4) and David Love (state rep, Rockingham 6). I may have missed a few.
The Governor sensibly called a recess after the PP/Lovering contract vote, knowing that most people weren’t planning to stay for the rest of the meeting at which dozens of other contracts were up for a vote. This also gave Councilor Sununu and Governor Hassan (or their staffers) a chance to tweet out their prefabricated statements, obviously prepared before the vote. Sununu’s statement is here.
Part 2, to be posted later: transcript of the questions and concerns expressed by Councilors Wheeler and Kenney; brief remarks from Executive Council candidate Jim Adams; a link to an audio recording of the meeting.
A “Planned Parenthood New Hampshire Action Forum” is scheduled for 10 a.m. tomorrow morning, Saturday, November 14, at the Teamsters Hall in Manchester. New Hampshire Right to Life, according to its own blog and Facebook page, is going to be out front with a prayer rally at 9 a.m. From the Facebook post: “We will be carrying our ‘Planned Parenthood Sells Baby Parts’ banner. Bring any pro-life signs you would like to carry. We will have extra signs to share.”
Another public pro-life prayer rally and demonstration was held by Seacoast-area residents earlier this week outside a banquet hall in Portsmouth where the Joan Lovering Center was holding an event – the Lovering Center being a Seacoast abortion facility, sometime site of 40 Days for Life campaigns, and recipient of public funds (thanks to four Executive Councilors – all but David Wheeler). The Center sends out an occasional email newsletter, and one of the recipients recently forwarded me the latest one. I found this excerpt written by the Executive Director particularly interesting:
…this has been a trying time. Not only abortion services, but family planning is being attacked. Planned Parenthood is at the center of the hubbub, but I assure you it is having an impact on all providers. If the extreme right should succeed in defunding Planned Parenthood, they will come after the independent providers next and then the doctors who provide family planning and/or abortion services. Their current viciousness is just one step in a bigger plan to get women out of the workforce, out of athletics, out of government service and back into the kitchen and the nursery, not to be seen or heard from again.
That’s what’s known among educated people as a straw-man argument.
This is a recipient of state contracts who makes no distinction between violence and nonviolence, apparently equating resistance to public funding with “com[ing] after…doctors.” Peaceful resistance is the antithesis of violence, not a gateway to it. Anyone who commits violence, including vandalism, is trying to undermine and discredit peaceful witness.
This brings me back to NHRTL’s planned prayer rally at the PPNNE event. The president of NHRTL, Jane Cormier, is an acquaintance of mine. Yes, she wants to let taxpayers divest from the abortion industry. Ms. Cormier is a vocal coach, opera singer, opera manager, nonprofit founder and director, and former elected official. All by herself, she debunks the conspiracy theory that there’s “a bigger plan to get women out of the workforce, out of athletics, out of government service and back into the kitchen and the nursery, not to be seen or heard from again.”
I suspect a number of women will be involved in this weekend’s prayer rally. The chance of them not being seen or heard from again is zero.