Jul 1, 2016 4:56 PM

NH1 News Exclusive: Ayotte, Hassan, battle over women's health care & reproductive rights

NH1 News Political Director

CONCORD – Democratic Gov. Maggie Hassan says that when it comes to women’s reproductive rights, Republican Sen. Kelly Ayotte is putting forward “sham legislation.”

And Ayotte says the governor’s comment is “truly offensive.”

Hassan and Ayotte are facing off this year in arguably the most high profile, expensive, and negative U.S. Senate race in the country. And thanks to Monday’s U.S. Supreme Court ruling striking down a Texas measure considered one of the most restrictive abortion laws in the country, and Wednesday’s vote by the New Hampshire Executive Council to restore state funding to Planned Parenthood of Northern New England, women’s reproductive rights were front and center in the Senate showdown.

Ahead of Wednesday’s showdown in the Executive Council, Ayotte’s campaign put out a new version of a digital ad that touts the senator’s record on fighting for women.

“I want to ensure a better quality of life for my ten year old daughter and all of our daughters. Better health care,” Ayotte said in the spot running on Facebook.

Asked about such efforts from the Ayotte campaign, Hassan told NH1 News that “I think that those are really claims meant to distract people from her real record on women’s health. My opponent in this race, Kelly Ayotte, has said that she believes that Roe v. Wade should be overturned and that we need a new Supreme Court to do it. I think that’s possibly part of the reason she is failing to do her job and blocking a hearing on Supreme Court nominee.”

“I’m very concerned that Sen. Ayotte has voted repeatedly to defund Planned Parenthood. People shouldn’t be distracted by sham legislation or anything else that she might put forward. She has really worked against reproductive rights for women throughout her career,” added Hassan, who spoke exclusively with NH1 News minutes after Wednesday’s Executive Council session.

Watch: Ayotte sits down for Fiscal Fridays on NH1 News

Ayotte, who as state attorney general ten years ago, took on Planned Parenthood as she defended a state law that mandated for minors parental notification for abortions. The case went to the U.S. Supreme Court, which ruled against Ayotte.

In responding to Hassan on Friday, Ayotte defended her record on broadening access to women’s health care.

“It’s really disappointing to see, to hear Gov. Hassan talk about legislation that I have gotten passed to make sure that women can still have access to mammograms, as sham legislation,” Ayotte said.

“Let me just tell you what's happening at the federal level. There is a government panel who has now said that women between the ages of 40 and 49 should not be recommended to have a mammogram and after the age of 50 every other year. I happen to know people personally, including my hairdresser, who wouldn't be with us if she hadn’t had a mammogram at age 44. And so for her to call this sham legislation is truly offensive because fighting for access to mammograms and the fact that I've been able to get that passed and get that decision stayed for two years, we're going to get it done permanently,” Ayotte added.

Ayotte on gender discrimination and guns

Ayotte sat down for an exclusive interview at the NH1 News studios in Concord one day after the governor issued an executive order prohibiting discrimination in state government on the basis of gender identity or gender expression.

The order, released Thursday, requires state agencies to review and revise their anti-discrimination policies as necessary. It also requires the departments of Justice and Administrative Service to review and revise to state contract language to include protections against discrimination on the basis of gender identity and gender expression.

Asked about similar action on the federal level, Ayotte said I’ve supported in the Senate, we had what’s called the Employer Non-Discrimination Act, ENDA, and I’ve supported that legislation and I don’t believe in discrimination so this is something that we’ve already passed in the Senate at the federal level and the House has yet to take it up but I hope they do.”

Ayotte says she’s continuing to try and secure the votes needed pass through the U.S. Senate a bipartisan measure to keep terrorists from purchasing weapons. The gun legislation’s spearheaded by moderate Republican Sen. Susan Collins of Maine. Ayotte’s a co-sponsor and one of the ringleaders of the bipartisan group of nine lawmakers backing the measure.

The amendment would prohibit weapons sales to people on two terrorist watch lists, including the well-known No Fly List. The legislation would also allow American citizens and green-card holders to appeal if their purchase is restricted, and they would get their legal fees recouped if they win. The measure would include a “look-back provision” that requires FBI notification if someone who’s recently appeared on a broader terrorism database purchases a weapon.

Last week 52 senators voted for the plan, with 46 opposed. While the measure passed an the initial test vote, it fell far short of the 60 votes needed advance the legislation in the Senate.

Forty-four of the Senate’s 46 Democrats voted in favor of the legislation. Two Democratic lawmakers who back the measure, Sens. Bernie Sanders of Vermont and Diane Feinstein of California, didn’t vote.

Collins, Ayotte, and the two other GOP co-sponsors of the plan, Sens. Jeff Flake of Arizona and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, were joined by four fellow Republicans: Sens. Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, Dan Coats of Indiana, Mark Kirk of Illinois, and Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania. Forty-six GOP senators voted against the measure.

“We are still working to get six Republican votes, to get to the 60 vote threshold,” Ayotte told NH1 News on Friday

“We had a meeting on it this week, the bipartisan group that crafted this legislation. And we’re going to continue to push to get it passed. It makes sense to make sure we keep guns out of the hands of terrorists while also protecting the constitutional rights of law abiding citizens which is very important as well,” she added.

Ayotte agrees with McCain over Trump

Ayotte spoke with NH1 News one day after Donald Trump backed up his renewed call for waterboarding, saying the United States is "going to have to do things that are unthinkable almost."

Watch/Read: Trump speaks one-on-one with NH1 News

In the wake of the horrific terrorist attack at the international airport in Istanbul, Turkey, Trump renewed his calls for the controversial interrogation practice of waterboarding. Responding to Trump’s comments, GOP Sen. John McCain of Arizona, a vocal opponent of waterboarding, said “it was not the American way.”

Asked about those comments, Trump said Thursday in a one-on-one interview with NH1 News that it “is not the American way to have heads chopped off and have people drowning in steal changes. And so we can have a our disagreements but we’re going to have to get much tougher as a country. We’re going to have to be a lot shaper and we’re going to have to do things that are unthinkable almost. Unthinkable, when you look at what’s happening to us, when you look at what’s going on in this country and around the world, and we don’t want, you know they’re allowed to cut off heads and they’re allowed to chop off heads and we can’t water board. So people can have disagreements, but I feel we have to get much, much, tougher, stronger and smart.”

Asked who she agrees with, Ayotte told NH1 News “I agree with the man who spent years in a prisoner of war camp and was tortured himself. I think he knows better than anyone. But one thing I will say that has been really disappointing for me in this administration is they aren’t even interrogating people. We do need to ask them questions. We do need to use basic interrogation techniques. And that’s not happening.”


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