ROUNDUP: “Sununu, Councilors Accused of Abandoning ‘Bipartisan History’ of Protecting Reproductive Care”
In the wake of Chris Sununu’s Executive Council’s vote to defund Planned Parenthood and other family planning providers, New Hampshire's Congressional delegation yesterday laid out how they are taking action to protect funding for family planning. While our Congressional delegation works to defend access to critical primary and preventive health care for all Granite Staters, Governor Sununu has spent the past few months repeatedly attacking reproductive rights — signing an abortion ban, instituting mandatory ultrasounds, and even laughing while Planned Parentehood was defunded. Those steps put Sununu well out of the mainstream — and represent a clear break with New Hampshire’s bipartisan history of defending reproductive rights.
Read the coverage below:
Members of the federal delegation called on Gov. Chris Sununu and the state’s leading Republicans Wednesday to step up efforts to protect state and federal funding for the family planning centers that provide health care to 12,000 low-income Granite Staters and defeat the new 24-week abortion ban.
“The bipartisan history of support for access to health care for women and for reproductive care in particular has been just clearly abandoned by this Executive Council and the Republican Party from top to bottom in this state,” Hassan said.
Shaheen said she “never thought I would see in New Hampshire, in the ‘Live Free or Die’ state, the action that we have seen from the Executive Council and the Legislature to attack women’s reproductive health.” Shaheen said Sununu could have held back the contracts until he had the votes to pass them or found alternative funding for the services, the majority of which are non-abortion related and include cancer screenings, birth control, STD testing and treatment, and pap smears.
Kuster faulted Sununu for not defeating the 24-week abortion ban, which mandates ultrasounds for all abortions and criminal penalties for physicians who violate the law, that was tucked into the state budget. “He signed the budget and he clearly could have sent it back,” she said.
Family planning centers may begin to narrow health services for low-income women after the Executive Council voted down a series of contracts last week, the leader of Concord’s Equality Health Center said Monday.
Executive Director Dalia Vidunas said the clinic’s leadership is meeting this week to reevaluate whether that sliding fee scale is still feasible. Several affordable health services are also at risk, Vidunas said.
Gov. Chris Sununu came under sharp verbal fire Monday as the four members of New Hampshire’s congressional delegation – all Democrats – joined with women’s health center officials in warning of dire consequences of last week’s Executive Council vote to defund family planning providers.
A virtual news conference Monday morning included U.S. Sens. Jeanne Shaheen and Maggie Hassan and U.S. Rep. Annie Kuster and Chris Pappas and officials of several of the defunded agencies. All warned that without the funding, services unrelated to abortions will be cut and waiting times for appointments will be longer.
But Shaheen and Kuster said Sununu could have done more to ensure passage of the contracts. They took the lead in criticizing the Republican governor, who is considering taking on Hassan in a U.S. Senate race next year – a potential race that could determine which party controls the Senate in 2023. [...] Shaheen and Kuster, however, noted that Sununu signed into law a budget trailer bill that enacted a 24-week abortion ban and mandatory ultrasounds for pregnant women.
Pappas, meanwhile, said the council votes were “outrageous,” particularly because the New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services had assured the council that no funds in the contracts would be used for abortions.
“We’ve seen this play out before, in 2011 and 2015, and each time it has not been about what's best for women and families, but about politics,” said Pappas, a former Executive Councilor. “As someone who's sat on the Executive Council, I've considered these contracts in the past. I know how crucial these funds are to provide basic services.
The Executive Council's rejection of state family planning contracts will lead to higher costs and longer wait times for low-income women who receive services such as birth control and screenings for cancer and sexually-transmitted diseases, providers said Monday.
Kayla Montgomery, executive vice president of public affairs for PPNNE, said the rejected providers make up 80% of the state’s family planning program, serving more than 12,000 clients. “This defunding is serious. It is an important piece of our funding,” Montgomery said. “We are going to see impacts for our patients. Our doors will stay open … but we possibly could see cuts in services or longer wait times.”
Sen. Maggie Hassan noted that as an executive councilor Sununu had once voted against family planning grants for Planned Parenthood in 2015; Sununu reversed that vote a year later and has supported the program ever since. “Rather than listening to public health experts, New Hampshire’s Republican Party is again playing really shameless political games with women’s lives,” Hassan said at the news conference with family planning providers.
New Hampshire's Democratic congressional delegation and state family planning service leaders defended women’s health care rights on Monday, following the New Hampshire Executive Council’s decision last week to reject extending the contracts of three state family planning providers.