CONCORD, N.H. — An anti-abortion group sued a federal health agency on Thursday to find out why Planned Parenthood of New Hampshire was awarded a $1 million grant to help fund family planning clinics in six cities.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services announced the grant in September; three months after the state's Executive Council denied funding to the clinics.
New Hampshire Right to Life sent a Freedom of Information Act request to the department on Oct. 7, wanting to know why other health care agencies weren't allowed to bid for the grant money. The department responded on Oct. 21, informing Right to Life that it wouldn't be able to comply within the 20 days, or even within the additional 10 days the statute provides, but it didn't offer a time frame when the request could be fulfilled, the anti-abortion group said.
Right to Life wants a federal judge to order the department to produce records related to the grant. The lawsuit also accuses the department of withholding communications it had with Planned Parenthood in violation of the Freedom of Information Act and questions whether the department violated any laws or regulations by awarding a grant to Planned Parenthood without putting the funds out to be bid.
"With the recent cuts in subsidies to hospitals, the full service hospitals located in each of the communities where Planned Parenthood operates an abortion clinic would be better able to provide a variety of health care services to people in need," the lawsuit states.
The suit was filed Thursday in U.S. District Court in Concord. DHHS spokesman Keith Maley said his agency won't comment on pending litigation.
New Hampshire's all-Republican Executive Council voted 3-2 in June to stop funneling federal grant money to Planned Parenthood.
On Sept. 13, U.S. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen and Planned Parenthood of Northern New England announced the $1 million grant to continue operating clinics in Claremont, Derry, Exeter, Keene, Manchester and Lebanon. The grant was awarded through the federal Title X program to fund birth control, cancer screenings and other services for free or at a reduced cost.
The three councilors opposed to funding Planned Parenthood— David Wheeler, Dan St. Hilaire and Ray Wieczorek— filed a formal protest with the federal government for awarding the contract. They asked that the contract be voided because it contravenes the state's sovereign authority. The three didn't want grant money given to the organization because it provides abortions using private funds.
St. Hilaire said Thursday that he's not expecting DHHS to respond to their protest letter.
An attorney for Planned Parenthood didn't immediately return calls seeking comment.