N.H. Executive Council narrowly passes contract with Planned Parenthood

Monitor staff
Wednesday, November 08, 2017

New Hampshire’s Executive Council approved a $548,000 contract with Planned Parenthood to provide reproductive and community health services Wednesday in a 3-2 vote swung by Republican Councilor Russell Prescott.

The contract, presented by the Department of Health and Human Services, allows Planned Parenthood of Northern New England to provide reproductive health and family planning services at its facilities in Keene, Manchester, Claremont, Derry and Exeter.

The money, allocated for state fiscal years 2018 and 2019, will also retroactively cover the first four months of fiscal year 2018, which started in July. The funding will be distributed in two one-year allotments of $274,000 and will come from the New Hampshire general fund.

Councilors also approved funding nine other contracts – totaling $2.4 million – for community health programs providing similar services.

The approval of Planned Parenthood is the latest in a series of divergent Executive Council votes in recent years. After decades of steady funding, Planned Parenthood contracts were rejected in 2011 and 2015, amid rising concern from Republicans surrounding the organization’s providing abortions.

Most recently, the contract was reapproved in June 2016, with then-Councilor Chris Sununu as the swing vote.

Democrats and Planned Parenthood representatives argue that the centers provide vital health services to low-income women and that public funding is not used on abortion services.

Prescott, of Kingston, who took over Sununu’s seat on the council, broke with Republican colleagues Joseph Kenney of Union and David Wheeler of Milford in supporting the contract. He said he based his decision solely on whether the organizations were qualified to carry out the contract effectively, and not on policy concerns.

“We had gotten it done today and I just kept thinking, ‘What is the role of the Executive Council?” as I made my votes as usual,” he said after the vote.

Wheeler said he disagreed that executive councilors shouldn’t consider broader issues when casting votes.

In a statement, Jennifer Frizzell, vice president of policy for Planned Parenthood of Northern New England, said the organization was “pleased.”

“Access to family planning services is critical for healthy families and healthy communities, and Planned Parenthood has been a partner with the State of New Hampshire for nearly 50 years,” she said.

(Ethan DeWitt can be reached at edewitt@cmonitor.com, or on Twitter at @edewittNH.)