New Hampshire's Republican-led Executive Council rejected $639,000 in state funding for Planned Parenthood along party lines Wednesday amid a renewed national debate over whether the organization should receive public money.
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"Voting against this contract is not going to stop one single abortion in New Hampshire, but it is going to stop thousands of people from accessing quality, affordable health care," Democratic Councilor Chris Pappas said.
The five-member council took up Planned Parenthood funding as part of roughly $1 million in state contracts with four health providers for family planning services, including STD testing, cancer screenings, counseling and access to contraception. The council, controlled 3-2 by Republicans, approved contracts with the Concord Feminist Health Center, the Joan G. Lovering Health Center on the Seacoast and Weeks Medical Center in the North Country.
In rejecting the contract, Republican councilors cited recently released videos by anti-abortion activists showing the organization's officials discussing providing medical researchers with tissue from aborted fetuses. Conservatives are alleging that the organization is profiting from selling fetal tissue, a charge it denies. Planned Parenthood of Northern New England does not engage in the voluntary tissue donation program, but the Republican councilors told Gov. Maggie Hassan the state should launch a state-based investigation.
"You can't divorce what's going on nationally from Planned Parenthood of Northern New England and we need a real investigation," said GOP Councilor David Wheeler.
Hassan said the Attorney General's office has been given no evidence of illegal activity in New Hampshire and therefore will not be pursuing an investigation into Planned Parenthood.
"We do not launch investigations in the state of New Hampshire on rumor," she said. "We do not launch criminal investigations in the state of New Hampshire because somebody edits a tape."
Republican councilor Chris Sununu was at the center of attention Wednesday. He has previously voted to support Planned Parenthood contracts. In 2011, when the council rejected a contract with Planned Parenthood, he was one of two Republicans to buck his party and vote in favor of the contract. Sununu is now widely known to be considering a run for governor in 2016. He said he received more than 1,000 messages from constituents and they overwhelmingly urged him to reject the contract.
Sununu said multiple times that he is pro-choice and thinks the state should look for other providers to contract with for family planning services.
"Things are different now," he said. "We have to take a step back and just take a pause and say 'Is this a company and a business that we should be actively engaging (with)?'"
The contract rejection will cut Planned Parenthood's public funding by about one-third in New Hampshire, officials said, as the organization will still receive federal money. Both Hassan and Jennifer Frizzell, vice president for public policy at Planned Parenthood of Northern New England, said the loss of the state contract will result in diminished services.
The organization served more than 12,000 people in 2014.
"I find it very, very troubling that anyone would vote against these contracts just because the national political climate is a little difficult," Hassan said.