(I wrote this essay for Cornerstone, which has kindly given me permission to re-post here.)
I am an “undeclared” voter, in the parlance of my state’s election laws, which means I’m not registered with any political party. I get a hefty pile of political ads in the mail every day during election season, as both major parties try to win my vote. Check the facts, they urge me.
I recently got a mailer from the state Democrat party attacking a state senate candidate, Gary Daniels, who happens to be a friend of mine. The mailer informed me that Daniels was coming to take away my reproductive rights.
I know the candidate and his voting record, so I was skeptical of the mailer right off the bat. But right there in tiny print on the front was that challenge: check the facts.
Fact number one: the first claim printed on the mailer cited a “vote” that Daniels never cast. He was not a member of the legislature at the time the bill in question was introduced.
“Opposes reproductive health care”
The footnote to the claim that Daniels “opposes reproductive health care” points to HB 685 (2020). Gary Daniels, while he is a former senator, was not in office in 2020. The incumbent in that seat is Shannon Chandley, whose party is responsible for the false claim that Daniels voted on HB 685.
Chandley voted in favor of the bill. That is not to her credit.
HB 685 was an abortion insurance mandate. It was not about reproductive health care. It was about violating the conscience rights of people who would rather not be involved in abortion, even tangentially, by providing insurance for it. It was about equating abortion with maternity care. As the Governor pointed out in his veto message, it was also about violating the federal Weldon Amendment, which would have cost the state millions of dollars in federal funds for human services programs in New Hampshire.
(The Weldon Amendment prohibits federal funds from going to states that discriminate against any health care entity which does not pay for or provide coverage for abortions.)
A vote for HB 685 doesn’t look to me like support for health care. Instead, it looks like contempt for conscience rights.
“Opposes doctor-patient confidentiality”
The mailer goes on to proclaim that Daniels “opposes doctor-patient confidentiality.” Another footnote, this one for HB 629 (2016).
HB 629 was an abortion statistics bill. Not only was it written to protect patient confidentiality, but it contained language to protect provider identity as well. That was how the bill made it through the House on a voice vote, before it was tabled in the Senate after an effort to pass it failed on a 12-12 vote.
I participated as a representative of a policy group, Cornerstone Action, in every hearing and work session between the time the bill was introduced in January 2015 until it died on the table in the state senate in May 2016. I know how great a role confidentiality played in the lengthy negotiations.
To say that support for abortion statistics is “opposition to doctor-patient confidentiality” is a lie. Period.
“Opposes access to contraception”
The footnote to the third claim on the anti-Daniels mailer (“opposes access to contraception”) takes us all the way back to a 2015 bill, SB 42, “relative to employee notification of contraceptive coverage” in employer-provided health insurance. This was an attempt to hang a scarlet letter on companies that were exempt from the Obamacare contraceptive mandate following the Supreme Court’s Hobby Lobbydecision.
This bill was so poorly received in the state senate that it was tabled and killed on a voice vote. It never even made it over to the House.
The only roll call vote on the bill was on a proposed amendment that was rejected on a 12-12 tie. Daniels voted against the proposed amendment because he understood the underlying bill.
That’s it. There’s no truth that the vote on SB 42 was about “access to contraception.” No one’s access to contraception was at issue. This bill was all about annoyance with the Supreme Court and with anyone who objected to the contraceptive mandate.
Now, more than ever…
In bold print, the mailer from the state Democrat party tells me that “now, more than ever, we need to come together to protect state level reproductive health.”
Let me fix that for them.
Now, more than ever, we need to come together to respect each other’s rights of conscience.
Now, more than ever, we need to come together to put women’s health ahead of politics, and start reporting abortion statistics including maternal morbidity and mortality. Forty-seven other states have figured out how to do that with aggregate data that protects patient confidentiality.
Now, more than ever, we need to reclaim the authentic meaning of rights and health.
And while we’re at it: now, more than ever, we need to call out a party when it fabricates a vote in an effort to smear a candidate. Just because there are footnotes doesn’t mean the information is accurate or reliable.
I suspect Gary Daniels is not the only candidate whose pro-life record is going to be misrepresented. Do your local candidates a favor: if you hear an accusation about “opposing contraception” or “opposing doctor-patient confidentiality,” call for documentation. If what you get in reply are references to HB 685, HB 629, and SB 42, now you know what they really mean.
The party that created that mailer will have to find another way to attract my vote.
With a nod to Cornerstone Action, and with full disclosure that I’m a Cornerstone communications consultant, let me link you to this morning’s headline from the Cornerstone blog: “Title X Grantees Announced.” Among the recipients of this federally-disbursed family planning money, with no messy intermediate stop at the New Hampshire Executive Council: Planned Parenthood of Northern New England.
From Cornerstone’s post:
[The federal Department of Health and Human Services] has announced grant awards for Title X family planning funds for the grant period of April 1st 2019- March 31st 2020 and Planned Parenthood of Northern New England will be the recipient of $600,000 of taxpayer money.
As you may recall, President Trump’s new rule was rumored to prohibit federal taxpayer dollars to go to organizations that promote and administer abortion as a form of birth control.
This round of 90 family planning grants for fiscal year 2019 does include some recipients of an abortion-free persuasion who had not received Title X money before, and it includes as always a lot of federally-qualified health centers which do not perform abortions. But please, don’t let anyone tell you that abortion providers have been cut out of Title X. It just ain’t so.
Quick review: Title X [that’s Roman numeral ten, not letter X] is a federal program that funds “family planning” efforts. Title X funds, while federal, are usually block-granted to states, and the states decide which contractors can most effectively carry out the Title X requirements. Abortion is explicitly excluded from Title X activity.
That’s how it’s usually (not always) done in New Hampshire, with the state Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) receiving the federal money, then seeking bids from contractors and submitting the resulting contracts to the Executive Council for approval. It’s common for up to eleven contracts to be awarded in New Hampshire, with each contractor covering a different part of the state. Most of the contractors are federally-qualified health centers, but three are abortion providers: the Equality Center in Concord, the Lovering Center in Greenland, and PPNNE.
Each of those abortion providers solemnly swears as part of the Title X contract that none of the money will be used for abortion. That’s the extent of the firewall. To my knowledge, no one has figured out how to divvy up the money between the abortion and non-abortion use for the utilities, equipment, office space, and staffing of a facility.
Therefore, taxpayers wanting to divest completely from involvement in the abortion industry are out of luck. You’d think a $23 million agency like PPNNE could figure out a way to separate out abortion from authentic health care: separate facilities, staff, accounts. But no. You’ve got civil rights, but the right not to subsidize abortion providers isn’t on the list.
There are two New Hampshire grantees in the latest round announced by the feds: the state HHS department, which will get $800,000 for Title X, and PPNNE, which has a $600,000 grant all to itself.
The state HHS grant for Title X will go through the usual state contract bidding process, ending with an Executive Council vote that will probably hand over the money to the usual contractors. (I’m guessing a 4-1 vote, but don’t hold me to that.)
The PPNNE Title X grant, on the other hand, goes directly to PPNNE. Does that mean PPNNE won’t reach for more money from general funds in the state budget, now being drafted? Big fat “no.” Check out this Concord Monitor article from last weekend.
Don’t blame one political party over another. There’s plenty of responsibility to go around. You can start by letting the President know what you think of the handouts from the federal HHS department. It’s an executive agency, and he’s Chief Executive.