Aug 5, 2015 2:16 PM
A visibly upset Governor Maggie Hassan challenged Executive Councilor and fellow Newfields resident Chris Sununu regarding his about-face on supporting Planned Parenthood.
"And what do the women in your district, the women in our town do while we wait because politics has intervened," Hassan said.
Sununu said the national undercover video alleging the sale of fetal body parts by national Planned Parenthood was enough for him to reconsider.
"Most of us saw those videos on line and the vast majority say it’s disgusting, it’s disturbing and it’s an absolute point for us to say, take a step back," Sununu said.
As Sununu considers a 2016 run for governor he fires back Hassan has done nothing to identify family planning providers other than Planned Parenthood.
"I just think we can do better. I understand governor you don’t want to go out and look for those choices. You have been clear about that. I can appreciate that, don’t agree but appreciate it," Sununu said.
A Planned Parenthood spokeswoman said Sununu can’t explain away his vote.
"Today really represents a shift for Councilor Sununu away from focusing on what’s at stake for his constituents and instead deferring to the national political climate," said Jennifer Frizzell, policy director with Planned Parenthood of Northern New England.
Meanwhile a conservative lawmaker and anti-abortion leader, Windham Republican State Rep. David Bates, praises Sununu for standing tall.
"He’s well known for being pro-choice but in light of the revelations regarding Planned Parenthood it seemed like there was no other reasonable position to take," Bates concludes.
The Executive Council voted along party lines, all three Republicans rejecting $650,000 in state funding for Planned Parenthood that provides health services such as contraception, STD testing, and counseling.
"This is not about pro-choice or pro-life. I am pro-choice," Sununu said.
And Sununu said he will work with state officials to try and identify an alternative health care provider.
In 2011, Sununu had supported these same contracts for Planned Parenthood but at the time raised the same concern that there wasn’t enough competition to offer family planning services in the state.
Hassan reacted angrily to the decision calling it "incredibly disappointing" and the result of a partisan political attack against Planned Parenthood’s national parent.
The council approved family planning contracts for three, other non-profit programs.
During an interview, Sununu said the decision of an investigation by the US Senate and the support of probes by 10 state governors convinced him to oppose contracts for Planned Parenthood clinics in Manchester and Claremont.
This vote was two days after a GOP push in the U.S. Senate to defund Planned Parenthood failed to advance through the chamber. The recent Republican efforts to derail the organization were prompted by graphic videos secretly recorded by anti-abortion activists that showed Planned Parenthood officials describing how they occasionally provide fetal tissue for medical research.
Democratic councilors Chris Pappas and Colin Van Ostern were supportive of Planned Parenthood, while Republican councilors David Wheeler and Joseph Kenney opposed the state contract with Planned Parenthood.
“Today, I cast the deciding vote on the Executive Council to oppose taxpayer funding of Planned Parenthood in New Hampshire. In the past, I supported funding for Planned Parenthood as a provider of reproductive health services in my district. However, investigations into potential criminal activity on both a federal and multi-state level have convinced me to withdraw that support,” said Sununu in a statement first obtained by NH1 News.
And Sununu laid some of the blame at Democratic Gov. Maggie Hassan.
“The Executive Council has asked Governor Hassan and her Attorney General Joseph Foster to formally investigate the matter to ensure no illegal activity has occurred. Yesterday the Governor refused that request once again confirming her need to place politics ahead of integrity and accountability in New Hampshire. Yesterday the Governor refused that request once again confirming her need to place politics ahead of integrity and accountability in New Hampshire,” Sununu wrote.
Planned Parenthood officials say they do not offer voluntary tissue donation in the Granite State.
“Two years ago, we came together across party lines to restore funding for Planned Parenthood and support the critical health care services that their health centers provide to women, men and families across the state," Hassan said.
"It is clear that today’s vote is the result of an ideological and political attack against Planned Parenthood and a woman’s right to make her own healthcare decisions, as there have been no allegations or evidence that Planned Parenthood of Northern New England has done anything but follow New Hampshire law and help thousands of women and families access health care.”
This vote eliminates about a third of Planned Parenthood's funding.
It receives federal money and since 2011 the Obama administration has contracted directly with Planned Parenthood. This came as a result of a vote from the Legislature to reject using Planned Parenthood as a family planning provider.
Sununu’s vote continues the speculation that he’s leaning towards running for governor next year against Hassan. The Democratic governor has yet to announce whether she’ll run for a third term in 2016, or challenge GOP Sen. Kelly Ayotte in what would a blockbuster Senate battle that could determine control of the Senate.
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