You may or may not be surprised to learn that New Hampshire’s abortion providers bid on contracts other than the familiar Title X family planning business. Supporters of Planned Parenthood of Northern New England and the Equality Center will be at the New Hampshire Executive Council meeting on Wednesday, June 21 to watch the Councilors vote on HIV prevention contracts with the two agencies.
The contracts total $440,000, with 17% of those funds coming from federal sources and the rest coming from “other,” meaning state-level sources.
From the contract letter: the request for proposal for this HIV prevention work elicited proposals only from PPNNE and the Equality Center. No abortion-free bidders applied.
Also in the contract letter is a warning that if the contracts are denied, individuals might lose access to HIV testing and referrals for care, “which may increase the transmission of disease throughout New Hampshire.” I guess that means that denying the contracts would not prompt PPNNE to shift any of its public policy funds to HIV prevention.
You can contact your Councilor about the contract vote if you are so moved. The June 21 meeting (10 a.m.) is open to the public at the Executive Council chamber on the second floor of the State House.
If the only information you want is for your own district’s reps and senators, go HERE to find your House representatives and HERE to find your state senator.
Governor-elect Chris Sununu already has a State House contact email (GovernorElect@nh.gov) and phone number (603-271-0200), which will be good until his inauguration on January 5.
Updated information for the Executive Council will be available later. Note that if you’re in Districts 1 (Joe Kenney), 4 (Chris Pappas), or 5 (Dave Wheeler), the information currently posted on the state web site will still be correct when the new term begins in January.
Two of New Hampshire’s five Executive Councilors are now running for Governor, while the other three will be defending their Council seats in November. I’ll be posting more information about these candidates in the coming weeks.
The Executive Council’s responsibilities include voting on state contracts and deciding whether to confirm the Governor’s nominees to various posts. Read more about the Council at nh.gov.
District One: North Country
Incumbent Councilor Joe Kenney (R-Wakefield) is being challenged for the third time by Democrat Michael Cryans. The two went head-to-head in the 2014 special election that followed the death of longtime Councilor Ray Burton, and Kenney prevailed narrowly on that occasion as well as in the regular election a few months later.
Kenney was part of the Council majority that denied a contract to Planned Parenthood of Northern New England in 2015. The contract was brought up again in June 2016 and was approved thanks to the flip-flop of Councilor Chris Sununu. During that June meeting, just before the contract vote was taken, Kenney explained his reasons for voting No.
“I’ll be voting against the contract, mostly because of the prioritization….[F]amily planning services is not the crisis of the day…. The number one issue in the state of New Hampshire is the opioid crisis. Number one.
“…We’re basically re-addressing something that was taken up last year, and this Council spoke very articulately and very forcefully that they were not going to support the contract….We should put that money into the drug opioid crisis.“
District Two: Concord, Keene, Durham, etc.
The Executive Council district map that illustrates this post features district 2 outlined in red. This, folks, is what a gerrymander looks like. Outgoing Councilor Colin Van Ostern of Concord will be succeeded by either Democrat Andru Volinsky of Concord or Republican Sam Cataldo of Farmington.
With his Council bid, Cataldo is giving up his district 6 Senate seat. He has a pro-life voting record, including support for a death penalty repeal bill which failed on a tie Senate vote in 2014.
Volinsky, an attorney from Concord, scored a decisive win in a three-way Democratic primary.
District Three: Seacoast & Southern Rockingham County
Democrat Beth Roth and Republican Russell Prescott are running for the Council seat being vacated by Chris Sununu.
In a Union Leader column last May, Roth wrote that the Council’s 2015 denial of the PP contract “mortgaged the health of women and families to satisfy a national partisan agenda….I’m running for Executive Council in District 3 because I believe we must fully restore funding for Planned Parenthood…”
Prescott (R-Kingston) has served several terms as state senator for district 23. He has supported many life-issue bills but opposed death penalty repeal in 2014.
District Four: Manchester + areas north and east of the city
Incumbent Councilor Chris Pappas, a Manchester Democrat, is being challenged by Manchester’s Joseph Kelly Levasseur.
In August 2015, Pappas said it would be “inhumane” to deny PP a contract with the state of New Hampshire.
Levasseur has served the city of Manchester as alderman and planning board member. I don’t know anything about his views on the life issues – yet. [Update 10/3/16: Levasseur was a speaker at the October 2 40 Days for Life rally in Manchester. ]
District Five: Nashua + points west and northwest
As Councilor, and before that as state senator and state representative, incumbent David Wheeler (R-Milford) has been an outspoken advocate for the right to life. He has opposed the use of public money for any abortion provider, not just PP. I’ve been proud to have Dave as my district’s Councilor. Note that he has not had occasion in recent years to vote on the death penalty, and I won’t guess where he stands on that.
Dan Weeks (D-Nashua), holding a Planned Parenthood endorsement, does not mention it on his web site. The site does mention “critical investments in women’s health.” I don’t suppose that includes investing in statistical collection of abortion data, but I could be wrong.
Keep an eye on these five races, which will determine how readily abortion providers can get at your money. Recall that the state commissioner of health and human services Jeffrey Meyers said that state contracts with abortion providers for non-abortion services pay for “infrastructure”: “My understanding from speaking with both of the vendors after the contract was brought forth for the agenda is that that money will continue to support their infrastructure, some specific needs, that will allow them to continue access.” There’s no way to divide “infrastructure” under one roof to keep abortion financially separate from non-abortion work.
We know now that every New Hampshire Executive Councilor knew when the June 29 meeting began how he intended to vote on the family planning contracts with two abortion providers. The prepared statement by Councilor Chris Sununu that was posted to social media immediately after the vote confirmed that his “swing” vote was swung some time ago.
State department heads or their deputies attend Council meetings in order to answer any questions the Councilors may have about proposed contracts. (That’s why most of the chairs in the chamber are taken by the time members of the public arrive.) Department of Health and Human Services Commissioner Jeffrey Meyers was on hand for questions from Councilors Joe Kenney and David Wheeler about the contracts with Planned Parenthood of Northern New England and the Joan Lovering Center.
Meyers, by the way, was confirmed as Commissioner in January. During the confirmation process, he told Councilors that he would bring back a PP contract. He followed through.
The Q and A at the Council meeting – almost entirely thanks to the diligence of Councilors Kenney and Wheeler – highlighted a few things not known by the general public. Family planning funds are tied into behavioral health money, for one thing. Another tidbit: the family planning funds may be used for agency “infrastructure.”
While Meyers’s intention regarding the contracts was clear, one Councilor told me that the actual contracts, totaling over a hundred pages, were not available to him for review until they were posted to the public, five days before the meeting.
While at the State House waiting for the recent Executive Council meeting to begin, I met Jim Adams. He’s running in the Republican primary for Executive Council district 4, in hopes of taking the seat away from incumbent Chris Pappas. Our chat didn’t rise to the level of a formal interview, but he said something to me that I thought was worth taking down.
When I was in Vietnam, I was a hospital corpsman, eighteen years old. I dealt with the human wreckage of war. I had no opinions [on] pro-life; that was not as prominent as it is today.
I had a young Marine who was badly injured. It was easy for me to see he was not going to make it. He grabbed my left arm and held onto it so tight I could barely get started [assisting him]. I was doing everything I could. You have to keep them focused, because if they don’t look in your eyes, they see how bad it is, they go into shock. He’s wanting his mother; all the things people think happen at that time, most of it does. He was hanging on to his life with every fiber in his being. And he slowly started to let go of my hand. He was not going to make it.
At eighteen years old, when I saw how hard that young man was trying to hang on to his life with every fiber in his being, I saw that life is the most important gift we have, and one should never be taken as a matter of convenience.
That’s one way to start a conversation about the life issues. Mr. Adams’s web site, under the heading “Fight for Your Family”, mentions his opposition to using funds to “support abortion.” I encourage district 4 voters to pursue specifics with Mr. Adams and with his GOP primary challenger, Joe Kelly Levasseur.
On the Democratic side, incumbent Pappas is unopposed. Pappas has voted twice in Council for public funding for abortion providers.
(District 4 includes the city of Manchester and the towns of Allenstown, Auburn, Barrington, Bedford, Bow, Candia, Chichester, Deerfield, Epsom, Goffstown, Hooksett, Lee, Londonderry, Loudon, Northwood, Nottingham, Pembroke, and Pittsfield.)