Our Turn: Stop the attacks on Planned Parenthood

  • Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (center) and Gov. Maggie Hassan (right) talk with Sen. Kelly Ayotte last month in Concord during a swearing-in ceremony for U.S. Attorney Emily Gray Rice. AP

Published: 4/16/2016 12:15:06 AM

For decades, Planned Parenthood has won bipartisan support across the Granite State and nationwide for its dedication to providing women with accessible, affordable reproductive health care, which is essential to the economic security and vitality of our families.

Despite this broad support, Planned Parenthood clinics are often the target of intimidation, threats and violence.

In October, the clinic in Claremont was vandalized twice. The second attack – a breaking-and-entering incident – caused extensive damage and forced the clinic to close for nearly six weeks.

Threats to Planned Parenthood escalated last year with the release of maliciously edited and deceptive videos designed to undermine our nation’s largest provider of women’s health care.

As the public now knows, the videos were a fraud. After a thorough investigation, a Texas grand jury exonerated Planned Parenthood and, instead, indicted two of the people responsible for the fraudulent videos. Twelve other states have concluded similar investigations and cleared Planned Parenthood of wrongdoing.

But the damage was done. Opponents of women’s reproductive rights used the videos to mobilize a wave of highly partisan attacks in Congress and in many states. Since last summer, Republicans in the Senate and House have launched five separate investigations of Planned Parenthood.

Here in New Hampshire, despite the fact that our attorney general’s office received no evidence of illegal activity, the Executive Council voted to reject funding for Planned Parenthood. As others have noted, three men on the council, on a party-line vote, chose to limit the ability of thousands of Granite State women to access the health care they need and deserve.

This was a disservice to the people of our state, where Planned Parenthood last year served nearly 12,000 women, most with incomes below or near the poverty line. Moreover, this is not the New Hampshire way.

Even after the fraudulent videos were released, polls showed that a majority of Americans support Planned Parenthood and two-thirds disapprove of efforts to defund the organization. The New Hampshire way is to listen to citizens’ views, seek common ground, and pursue bipartisan or nonpartisan solutions. It is not the New Hampshire way to launch investigations or make partisan decisions based on rumors or maliciously edited and fraudulent tapes.

Health care professionals at the health center in Claremont were traumatized by the October attacks. Now, in addition to the emotional trauma, the clinic must reckon with the abrupt termination of state funding.

We admire the courage of doctors and other health care providers at the Claremont health center. Despite threats and attacks, they are determined to continue serving women across the Connecticut River Valley, many of whom have no accessible alternative to Planned Parenthood. However, something is wrong when it takes courage for health care professionals to report to work and do their jobs. They deserve better, especially from their elected leaders.

Meanwhile, the congressional investigations continue, despite the debunking of the tapes. Facts do not seem to matter. Congressional Republicans voted five times in the House, and three times in the Senate, to defund Planned Parenthood.

We believe that facts do matter. The Executive Council acted when passions were inflamed by the fraudulent tapes and before the tapes were investigated and discredited. In fairness, the council should revisit that vote. More broadly, elected officials need to condemn threats and attacks on Planned Parenthood and work to restore the decades-long consensus in the Granite State in support of funding for this indispensable health care provider.

We are a state and nation of laws. By all means, this includes respecting women’s access to health care services and our constitutionally protected right to make our own reproductive choices.

(Jeanne Shaheen is New Hampshire’s senior senator. Maggie Hassan, a candidate for U.S. Senate, is serving her second term as New Hampshire’s governor.)

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