CONCORD, N.H. — The fight over funding for Planned Parenthood is coming to New Hampshire on Wednesday, just days after the U.S. Senate blocked a Republican effort to stop sending federal money to the organization.
The state's five-member executive council is set to vote on roughly $1 million in contracts with four providers of family planning services, including Planned Parenthood of Northern New England. The contracts are mostly state money and will allow the health centers to provide contraception, cancer screenings, STD testing and education and counseling for low-income adults. The Concord Feminist Health Center, Weeks Medical Center in the North Country and the Joan G. Lovering Health Center on the Seacoast are also poised to receive money under the contract.
Three Republicans and two Democrats sit on the council, and most eyes are on GOP councilor Chris Sununu. He has previously voted in favor of contracts for Planned Parenthood, including in 2011 when the all-Republican council blocked the contract in a 3-2 vote, but he is eyeing a run for governor in 2016. The state Republican Party recently adopted a resolution calling for elected Republicans to "deprive Planned Parenthood of public funding of any kind."
Sununu did not respond to a request for comment Tuesday.
Planned Parenthood came under fire recently after anti-abortion activists released videos showing the organization's officials discussing providing medical researchers with tissue from aborted fetuses. Conservatives are alleging Planned Parenthood is profiting from selling fetal tissue and said it should no longer receive public money.
Planned Parenthood does facilitate the donation of tissue for fetal research in some states, although not in New Hampshire, but denies charges that it profits from the transaction.
Gov. Maggie Hassan and state health officials said approving the contract is critical to making sure low-income women have access to family planning services.
"Should the governor and executive council not approve this request, low-income, uninsured individuals may not have access to contraceptive services and preventative health services which may increase economic disparities and financial instability that results from unintended pregnancies," state health officials write in the contract request.
Planned Parenthood of Northern New England served 12,828 women in its New Hampshire health centers in 2014, said Jennifer Frizzell, vice president for public policy. In addition to the state contract that's up for approval Wednesday, the organization receives federal money as well.
Republican councilor David Wheeler called on Hassan this week to formally invest Planned Parenthood based on the allegations over fetal tissue donations. He also called on her to put aside the contract until an investigation is complete.
"At a time when your administration is attempting to give hundreds of thousands of public dollars to Planned Parenthood of Northern New England, it is outrageous that you would discourage an investigation to ensure that taxpayers are not funding illegal activity," Wheeler wrote in a letter to Hassan.
Hassan's office said no evidence has been presented to show that Planned Parenthood in New Hampshire has "done anything but follow New Hampshire laws and help thousands of women and families access health care."
GOP councilor Joe Kenney said he is unlikely to support the contract for Planned Parenthood, but hoped the council can vote on funding for each of the providers separately. Democratic councilors Colin Van Ostern and Chris Pappas will support the contract.