NASHUA — The state Executive Council on Wednesday rejected family planning contracts for Planned Parenthood of Northern New England and two clinics in Concord and Greenland that also advertise they perform elective abortions.
All four Republicans on the council voted against the contracts, which would have run from last June 30 through the end of 2021.
Councilor Cinde Warmington, D-Concord, was the lone supporter.
“A ‘no’ vote harms the women and children of our state. We need to quit playing politics with the health care of the women of our state and approve these contracts,” she said.
Gov. Chris Sununu called the vote “incredibly disappointing.”
“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,” he 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.”
None of the family planning money could be spent on abortion services.
Turned down were five Planned Parenthood clinics, Equality Health Center in Concord and the Joan Lovering Health Center in Greenland.
The council voted 3-2 to approve contracts for four other family planning providers that don’t perform elective abortions.
Councilors Joe Kenney, R-Wakefield, and Janet Stevens, R-Rye, joined Warmington in backing those contracts. Councilors David Wheeler, R-Milford, and Ted Gatsas, R-Manchester, opposed them.
Wheeler said all of the programs could be performing medically necessary abortions.
“Could any of these providers be providing abortions?” Wheeler asked.
Deputy Public Health Director Patricia Tilley answered, “Hypothetically, yes” though all of them have told state officials that they do not.
Tilley said the state doesn’t collect data on where abortions take place in New Hampshire health care centers.
Gatsas said he opposed all the contracts because they let clinics provide the morning-after pill to minor girls without parental consent.
The morning-after pill is used to prevent an unintended pregnancy for women who have had unprotected sex or whose birth control method has failed.
“My position hasn’t changed today. I believe a woman has the right to do what they want to do, but a 14-year-old should have to get consent,” Gatsas said.
The highly-anticipated vote came at St. Joseph Hospital’s nursing school. Right after the vote, one abortion rights supporter shouted an expletive at Wheeler while another predicted there will be more “back-alley abortions thanks to you men.”
A few dozen Planned Parenthood activists held supportive signs outside the meeting.
“Voting to defund Planned Parenthood is a shameful vote,” said Kayla Montgomery, executive vice president of public affairs for Planned Parenthood Northern New England. “Today, four executive councilors chose to ignore public health experts and put their own views before the health and safety of their constituents.”
Dems condemn vote
The state’s all-Democratic congressional delegation put out a statement condemning both the Republicans on the council and Sununu, who campaigned for all of them to win in 2020 and signed an abortion ban as part of the two-year state budget.
“State House and Senate Republicans and the governor must stop their anti-woman, anti-choice priorities,” said U.S. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H. “Their grandstanding is beyond the pale and will have real consequences for the health and safety of Granite Staters.”
Melanie Levesque, a New Hampshire Democratic Party senior adviser, said Sununu is responsible for this outcome, despite his admonishment of the council’s decision.
“Chris Sununu’s Executive Council voted repeatedly today to take away New Hampshire women’s access to quality, affordable reproductive health care. Chris Sununu is directly responsible for the Executive Council’s votes to defund Planned Parenthood and other family planning centers across New Hampshire that provide critical care to women,” Levesque said.
The first-ever abortion ban after 24 weeks was contained in the state budget trailer bill Sununu signed in June.
The same bill also required that the programs undergo financial audits to confirm that any abortions performed are “physically and financially separate” from other reproductive services such as cancer screenings.
Attorney General John Formella agreed with Tilley that all providers have shown state officials that they complied with this new restriction.
Wheeler said the 2,000 pages of contract amendments fail to confirm that the abortion providers aren’t commingling these dollars.
“If these contracts are turned down, most low-income citizens can get these same services through Medicaid,” Wheeler said.
After the meeting, Warmington said she thought Sununu should have spent more political capital to convince at least two GOP councilors to support the contracts.
“This council has been a pretty rubber-stamp entity for this governor, so I do think he could have done more,” Warmington said.