Editorial: N.H. Executive Council Should Reverse Planned Parenthood Decision

Thursday, February 04, 2016
Political life is rife with all sorts of dishonesty, but in some respects the worst is the intellectual variety.

A notorious example is now playing out in the New Hampshire Executive Council, the five-member body that, among other duties, confirms gubernatorial appointees and approves all state contracts over $25,000. In August, the three Republican members of the council, Chris Sununu, David Wheeler and Joe Kenney, blocked the award to Planned Parenthood of two state contracts totaling $638,000. The contracts were intended to fund general family planning and reproductive health services for an estimated 14,000 New Hampshire women, many of them from low-income households — a role that Planned Parenthood of Northern New England has filled with distinction for decades in the Granite State.

In making that decision, the three councilors cited videos made surreptitiously by an anti-abortion group that purported to show Planned Parenthood officials elsewhere in the nation trying to illegally profit from the sale of fetal tissue for research. “We have to take a step back, just take a pause,” said Sununu, who identifies himself as “pro-choice” and had supported Planned Parenthood contracts in the past. Perhaps not coincidentally, he is running for governor this year.

Despite the fact that the Northern New England affiliate of Planned Parenthood does not donate fetal tissue for research, Kenney, whose district encompasses most of the Upper Valley’s New Hampshire side, was more emphatic in turning down the contracts: “I understand there’s some good things they have done in the past, but we have got to send a signal to our young kids, to our folks, our taxpayers, that we will not tolerate this and we will be outspoken and we will demand action — whether it be legal or through the power of the vote — to push back on this type of activity.”

Action there has been. Investigations of the videos in 12 states have found no wrongdoing on the part of Planned Parenthood affiliates. Late last month, a grand jury in Houston, convened at the behest of anti-abortion Republican officials, not only cleared Planned Parenthood but also ended up indicting two members of the group that made the videos, the Center for Medical Progress, including its leader.

As for sending a signal, Kenney has definitely done that. Last week, the two Democratic members of the Executive Council, Colin Van Ostern, who is also running for governor, and Chris Pappas, called on their colleagues to reverse themselves and approve the contracts in light of the Texas indictments and the unanimous results of the other investigations. Sununu said no. Asked if he had changed his mind, Kenney declined to answer, telling the Valley News by phone from a ski trip that, “I’ve been doing constituent work, spending time with my family. I haven’t been studying what’s been going on at the national level.” Although aware there were “some things going on in Texas,” Kenney continued, “I don’t see where that impacts New Hampshire.”

From this spectacular display of disingenuousness we infer that a) Kenney puts a higher priority on skiing than he does on the health and well-being of thousands of New Hampshire women; or b) he puts a higher priority on anti-abortion dogma than he does on the health and well-being of thousands of New Hampshire women. Either way, we hope the constituents for whom he has been working take the opportunity “through the power of the vote” to “push back on this type of activity” this fall and send him packing for a more prolonged ski trip, preferably out of state and out of mind.




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