Council Votes Against Extending Planned Parenthood Contract

CONCORD, N.H. (AP) — The New Hampshire Executive Council decided Wednesday against extending contracts for three family planning services that provide abortions, denying them funding they have counted on for years for cancer screenings, testing for sexually transmitted diseases and other routine health care services.

The Republican-majority council voted 4-1 along party lines, the first time the contracts were up for a vote under a new state requirement that the state confirm a “physical and financial” separation between family planning programs and any abortion clinics they may operate.

The Republican-led Legislature passed the provision, which mandates financial audits of reproductive health facilities to ensure no public funds are paying for abortion-related services.

Sununu, a Republican who says he favors abortion rights, signed a state budget in June that included a ban on abortions after 24 weeks, with exceptions to save the mother's health.

It wasn't immediately known if he had taken a position on the separation of funds provision; a message was left for his spokesperson.

Currently, neither state nor federal funding goes toward abortions in New Hampshire.

Councilors cited concerns the money would mingle with other clinic funds.

“The three reproductive health care facilities that wanted this money did not meet the statutory requirements of proving that there would no mingling of the funds with the abortion business that they are in," Councilor David Wheeler, a Republican from Milford, said after the meeting.

Planned Parenthood of Northern New England, which would have been the recipient of the largest portion of the contract extensions, had said that the contracts fund cancer screenings, birth control and testing and treatment of sexually transmitted infections.

The contracts were supported by state Department of Health and Human Services and Sununu.

“I brought these contracts forward because I support them, just as I have every year as Governor, because they protect women’s health and it is the right thing to do,” Sununu said in a statement. “Today’s action to vote down funding like cancer screenings and other women’s health services is incredibly disappointing and not something I agree with.”

Sununu said at a news conference the state has “done due diligence" to make sure there is no comingling of funds. Wheeler said he disagreed.

However, some Democrats blamed Wednesday's vote on Sununu for supporting anti-abortion candidates for the council. They also recalled when Sununu was on the council in 2015 and cast a deciding vote to not provide funding for Planned Parenthood over concerns that it was selling fetal tissue. The allegations were determined to be unfounded.

In 2016, Sununu joined the majority on the council to vote in favor of providing funding for Planned Parenthood.

The state's all-Democrat congressional delegation criticized the council vote.

“The Executive Council’s vote to block funding for Planned Parenthood and other family planning providers is a dangerous attack on women’s health and well-being," U.S. Sen. Maggie Hassan said in a statement. “This vote threatens access to high-quality reproductive health care, including cancer screenings, from thousands of Granite Staters."