The Executive Council Wednesday voted 3-2 along party lines against renewing two family planning contracts for Planned Parenthood centers in New Hampshire.
Before the vote, four of the five councilors – two Republicans, two Democrats –had already made their positions clear. That left Republican Councilor Chris Sununu to cast the deciding vote on the contracts, which would have covered family planning services in the Manchester, Claremont, Exeter, Derry and Keene areas.
Sununu was the only Republican to vote for the contracts when the council denied state funding for Planned Parenthood four years ago. And during Wednesday’s meeting, Sununu again voiced his support for the centers and the services they provide.
In his Seacoast district, Sununu said, Planned Parenthood is the only facility that offers care like low-cost birth control, STD testing and cancer screenings.
“And I think they have done a fantastic job, a fantastic job of providing these women services these reproductive services, I’m a big believer of it, a huge believer of it," Sununu said. "That’s why I went against and really ticked off all my friends for the past few years because I believe it’s absolutely right."
But when it came down to the vote, Sununu ended up rejecting the $600,000 in state contracts.
Given his future political aspirations, many could argue Sununu’s decision is politically driven. Sununu has said he is considering a run for governor next year.
But the main political issue behind the vote appears to be the recent national controversy around videos involving Planned Parenthood executives discussing fees for fetal tissue.
“Things are different right now, we have to take a step back and just take a pause and say, is this a company and a business we should actively engaging in,” Sununu told his colleagues.
Fellow Republican Councilor Joseph Kenney said councilors could not ignore that issue when weighing their votes.
“We have got to send a signal to our young kids, that we will not tolerate this and that we will be outspoken and we are going to demand action, whether it be legal or through the power of the vote to push back on this type of activity,” Kenney said before the vote.
Planned Parenthood of Northern New England, which serves Maine, Vermont and New Hampshire, said it does not donate fetal tissue for research.
Governor Maggie Hassan urged councilors before the vote to not let Washington politics interfere in their decisions.
“I find it very, very troubling that anyone would vote against these contracts just because the national political climate is a little difficult,” said Hassan, who presides over council meetings. On Monday, an effort to cut federal funding for Planned Parenthood failed in the U.S. Senate.
Sununu also asked whether it was possible to find alternative agencies to provide these services, but Hassan said that would unnecessarily delay services for thousands. Hassan also rejected calls to open a state investigation into Planned Parenthood, saying there is no evidence of illegal activity in New Hampshire.
Jennifer Frizzell of Planned Parenthood of Northern New England said not being awarded these two year contracts will significantly affect the roughly 12,000 women and families the centers serve each year.
“There is no question that at some level our programs will be impacted, whether that is reducing hours, whether that is eliminating staff, whether that is not being able to provide the same level of income sensitivity for the patients that we see,” she told reporters after the vote.
The council did, however, approve three other family planning contracts with organizations not affiliated with Planned Parenthood.