The Executive Council approved contracts Wednesday with 10 separate reproductive health providers and community health centers across the state.
All together, the contracts add up to about $2.9 million, with the largest share going to Planned Parenthood of Northern New England. Some of the money is retroactive, to cover providers that have been operating without a contract for the last few months.
This is just the latest in a line of closely watched votes of this kind in recent years, and the scene had echoes of past battles over family planning funding.
As with past votes, Planned Parenthood supporters lined the hallways, urging councilors to keep the funding going.
As in the past, Republican councilors were divided on the issue. This time around, one (Councilor David Wheeler) voted against all 10 contracts, one (Councilor Joe Kenney) voted for some of them.
And one Republican — Executive Councilor Russ Prescott — joined with the council’s two Democrats to support all of the funding, including for Planned Parenthood. (In another parallel to past votes, Prescott holds the council seat formerly occupied by Gov. Chris Sununu, who joined with Democratic colleagues to pass another closely watched set of family planning contracts in 2016.)
After the meeting, Prescott told reporters he tried not to let the politicization of these contracts cloud his vote.
“I just kept thinking about what is the role of the Executive Council as I made my votes, as usual,” Prescott said.
Before voting against the contract, Wheeler pressed state officials over what kind of public money the providers were receiving from both state and federal sources — beyond just the contracts on the table Wednesday.
That request for more details required tabling the vote so that state health officials could seek out answers beyond what was included in their normal presentation.
Wheeler also quibbled with state health officials over the idea that the providers would be allowed to offer emergency contraception. Despite testimony from state health officials to the contrary, he remained unconvinced that the pill did not have the same effect as an abortion.
“When you hear they provide the morning after pill, the morning after, that’s still an abortion — a chemical abortion, not a physical abortion. So we’re talking semantics with language,” Wheeler told reporters after the meeting. “So this money still provides for abortions, and that’s my objection.”