Another View -- Colin Van Ostern: Why this executive councilor will vote to fund Planned Parenthood
TODAY, I WILL vote to continue supporting access to low-cost birth control, cancer screenings, and annual exams for New Hampshire women at our state’s five Planned Parenthood health centers and three other nonprofit centers across the state. I encourage my four colleagues on the state Executive Council to join me in voting “yes,” for one simple reason: because our citizens and our state are better off if this access to preventive health care continues.
More than 12,000 New Hampshire women and families used this care last year at Planned Parenthood alone, with thousands more served by the service providers in other regions of our state. Primarily, the health care delivered consisted of low cost birth control, STD tests, cancer screenings and education about how to avoid unplanned pregnancies and sexually transmitted diseases for low-income women. That sort of preventive care — and nothing else — is what this vote is about.
It is not about abortion. The funds up for an Executive Council vote on Wednesday may not legally be used for abortion, plain and simple. Voting down access to birth control for thousands in hope of somehow indirectly stopping legal, privately-funded abortions — just 3 percent of what Planned Parenthood does — would frankly serve the opposite purpose. As one University of Texas demographer noted in court after studying the fallout when his state defunded Planned Parenthood in 2013: “You’re removing contraception with this (defunding), and if you remove contraception, you get unintended pregnancies, which means more abortion.”
The vote is also not about fetal tissue research. The contract has nothing to do with the video circulated last month in which paid actors baited a Planned Parenthood staffer into discussing fetal tissue donation which she did in a disturbingly clinical and sometimes callous tone, secretly filmed and then deceptively edited.
I’ve received heartfelt notes from constituents on both sides of that question. One asked me to search my conscience and stop what he sees as a sinful practice. Another told me the story of her own miscarriage, tissue donation and the lifesaving research into prenatal lung development that she says helped a granddaughter born prematurely years later. Both notes were thoughtful and touching. Neither, with respect, will be affected by Wednesday’s vote.
It does a disservice to our citizens to draw ideological or political lines around basic care like birth control, cancer screenings and annual exams. Support for these policies is not limited to progressives and moderates; these are simply mainstream, noncontroversial, and nonpolitical policies. The current funding was approved with bipartisan support; similar contracts with Planned Parenthood and the other nonprofits providing this care have been approved by three of the five councilors who serve today. Nothing is new here except the politics, and this should not be a complicated vote.
Through online viral outrage, ideological campaigns can infect partisans and good faith observers alike, so one of the most important competencies of an elected official is the ability to distinguish between substance and soundbite; between policy and politics. New Hampshire often gets that puzzle right when Washington, D.C., gets it wrong. From Washington, Sen. Kelly Ayotte is already putting politics ahead of New Hampshire women on this issue by pushing to defund this care at Planned Parenthood. But in the slow-moving U.S. Congress, that move is thankfully likely to go nowhere. In New Hampshire, the consequences are more immediate, and more real.
The only policy up for a vote today is whether thousands of New Hampshire women and families should continue to be able to access low-cost, basic and noncontroversial preventive health care. The clear answer is yes. Good policy shouldn’t be made unnecessarily difficult because of bad politics.
Colin Van Ostern (www.vanostern.com) of Concord represents District 2 on the Executive Council.