Chris Sununu is a pro-choice Republican, but when he voted Wednesday to defund Planned Parenthood clinics in New Hampshire, he viewed it as a vote in favor of women’s health, not against.
Before the New Hampshire Executive Council’s 3-2 vote denying the contract, he said he received separate calls from five young women — both pro-choice and pro-life — who told him they refused to set foot in Planned Parenthood clinics, even though they needed services and those were their closest options.
“All of them were unemployed and had actually gotten rides to other parts of the state so they could go to another provider that wasn’t Planned Parenthood and that didn’t have this umbrella of scrutiny hanging over them,” said Mr. Sununu. “And that sort of hit home.”
The New Hampshire vote, coming over the objections of Democratic Gov. Maggie Hassan, comes as the latest example of the backlash against Planned Parenthood following the release of five undercover videos raising alarm over the organization’s involvement in the trade of fetal organs from abortions.
“I’ve supported Planned Parenthood in the past to provide these services, but there are some women who just don’t want to support them because they’re too controversial,” Mr. Sununu said.
In New Hampshire, there’s also a political angle. Mr. Sununu, the son of former New Hampshire Gov. John H. Sununu, is said to be considering a run against Ms. Hassan in 2016, a race in which Planned Parenthood is already emerging as a campaign issue.
The Republican-controlled New Hampshire Executive Council denied state funding by turning down a $639,000 contract with Planned Parenthood of Northern New England.
The affiliate still receives funding from the federal government and other states in its purview.
The vote follows Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal’s decision last week to cut off state funds for Planned Parenthood in his state. Both decisions came after the release of the first video July 13 by the pro-life Center for Medical Progress.
At least 10 other states have reacted by launching investigations, but New Hampshire is not one of them. The executive council’s decision to deny state funding to Planned Parenthood came after Ms. Hassan refused calls to look into the group’s practices regarding fetal tissue.
The governor has said there is no evidence of illegality at the state clinics, which reportedly do not handle fetal tissue donations, adding, “We do not launch investigations in the state of New Hampshire on rumor.”
The Democratic governor also rejected a request from Republicans, including Mr. Sununu, to look into using other health care providers for nonabortion services offered by the Planned Parenthood clinics.
“The second request we made was, ‘Look, will you help us find alternatives to Planned Parenthood?’ In other sections of the state, other folks provide these services. In my district — I represent about a quarter-million people — Planned Parenthood is the only option,” Mr. Sununu said. “And I don’t think that’s right. I believe in having choice, in giving women choices for where they want to go.
“So that’s what I asked the governor to do: Let’s look for alternatives together as a team here,” he said. “She outright rejected that today.”
Ms. Hassan blasted the executive council’s vote in a Wednesday statement, saying, “I am incredibly disappointed in the outcome of today’s vote.”
“The council’s vote to defund Planned Parenthood will hurt the health and economic well-being of thousands of Granite Staters,” Ms. Hassan said. “Moving forward, I will continue to fight to ensure that women and families have access to the important health services that are essential to the economic security and vitality of our families.”
Councilor Chris Pappas, a Democrat, also criticized the Republican majority’s rejection of the Planned Parenthood contract.
“Voting against this contract is not going to stop one single abortion in New Hampshire, but it is going to stop thousands of people from accessing quality, affordable health care,” Mr. Pappas said, according to The Associated Press.
The council did vote to fund contracts for three other health care providers that do not perform abortions: Concord Feminist Health Center, the Joan G. Lovering Health Center on the Seacoast and Weeks Medical Center in the North Country.
Mr. Sununu argued that part of the executive council’s charge is to act as a check on government contracts.
“When you have a group like this here at the national level under all this investigation and scrutiny — look, if it were any other contractor, there wouldn’t even be a debate. Of course we wouldn’t be doing business with them,” Mr. Sununu said.
“But for some reason the Democrats seem to be going out of their way to find an excuse to keep Planned Parenthood around, and on the line and on contract,” he said. “There are lots of other providers of these services out there. All I’m saying is, let’s go contract with them and use these other health care providers to make sure we are giving adequate choice to these women.”
New Hampshire Democratic Party spokeswoman Lizzy Price charged that Mr. Sununu’s vote “proved that he is more concerned with his own political interests and trying to win a primary for higher office than he is with the health and economic well-being of New Hampshire women and families.”
Not so, said Mr. Sununu. “There’s too much ethical and legal scrutiny surrounding this organization right now for the state to just keep doing business with them,” he said.