PP Contract Coming to Executive Council Wednesday, June 21

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.

To view the contract letter, go to the Council’s June 21 agenda and click on item #50. 

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.

Abortion provider’s fundraiser: “Women’s lives are at stake” – but public policy budget is safe

A reader has forwarded me the latest fundraising email she received from Planned Parenthood of Northern New England. As marketing pieces go, it’s sharp, as may be expected from an organization with a $200,000 marketing budget.

Perhaps the marketing types didn’t have time to fact-check the text. Neither did PPNNE’s president/CEO, apparently, who let this whopper go out over her signature:

“New Hampshire stripped our funding.” 

That refers to one Executive Council vote last August that denied PPNNE a contract worth $638,000 over two years.

The most recent annual report for PPNNE that I can find covers 2014. That year, PPNNE’s revenue was $20,739,512. Of that, federal/state/local funding (that’s your money) came to $3,824,582.

A $638,000 two-year government contract works out to $319,000 per year. PPNNE in 2014 took in $3.8 million in government funds. If the expected government funding for 2015-2016 stayed level in other respects, loss of the contract represents an 8% reduction in the investment taxpayers are making to PPNNE.

Stripped their funding?

The 2014 annual report also says that there was enough funding to allow $805,413 in public policy spending. $235,796 went straight to the national Planned Parenthood office for “program support.” A million bucks went to development (i.e. fundraising), yielding about $4 million in contributions and bequests. This doesn’t even get into salaries (delving into PPNNE’s IRS form 990 will tell you more about that), which for the annual report are folded into General and Admin expenses.

“Women’s lives are at stake,” frets the CEO in the email. At least public policy and fundraising aren’t at stake.

When you hear politicians running for office saying that they “stand with Planned Parenthood,” ask if they stand by the bogus claim that PPNNE’s been “stripped of funding” in New Hampshire.

By the way, did you notice how the clip from the email smoothly and deceptively lists a contract denial along with alleged criminal activity as one of the things making things “tough” for PP?

Protest, protests, picket, defunds (sic), …hatchet attack. One of these things is not like the other. Can your reps tell which one?

And how about “protests close in as buffer zone vanishes”? No zone has vanished since none has been set up (as of two days ago, anyway). If you don’t believe me, ask Judge Laplante.

There’s more: the fundraising email claims that New Hampshire had sixteen bills this year “that would limit women’s access to reproductive health.”

Based on the bills opposed by PPNNE this year, the organization believes that women’s access to reproductive health is limited when First Amendment rights are asserted (HB 1570), when there is a duty to care for children who survive attempted abortion (HB 1627), and when there’s a ban on trafficking in the body parts of aborted children (HB 1663).

That’s enough to give reproductive health a bad name.

Court victory for NHRTL in Right-to-Know suit against NH DHHS

“The people of New Hampshire do not need permission from Planned Parenthood to see records that are theirs to see.” With that, attorney Michael Tierney summed up a December 22 decision in Strafford County (NH) Superior Court in favor of New Hampshire Right to Life in a right-to-know lawsuit filed against the New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS).

The court ordered DHHS to pay NHRTL attorney’s fees and costs. Any taxpayers objecting this this should ask Governor Hassan and outgoing DHHS Commissioner Nick Toumpas why DHHS didn’t turn over unredacted documents regarding Planned Parenthood of Northern New England, a state contractor, when asked to do so.

NHRTL asserts that DHHS’s decision to delay responding to the right-to-know request allowed PP time to redact information from what should have been publicly-available documents.

New Hampshire Right to Life’s press release:

CONCORD, N.H. – On Tuesday, December 22, the Strafford County Superior Court ruled that New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services should not have delayed releasing documents under a valid “right to know” request from New Hampshire Right to Life.

The documents in question related to the licensing of Planned Parenthood’s distribution of the abortion drug RU-486 and FDA safety protocols required under NH state law.

“It was clear Planned Parenthood and the NH Dept. of Health and Human Services worked together to try to thwart a legitimate Right to Know request from NHRTL,” says Jane Cormier, President of NHRTL. “This was a victory for all community organizations, businesses, and individuals who seek transparency and fairness from their government. NH DHHS broke the law when it did not enforce a simple right to know request. By doing so, they gave Planned Parenthood the ability to redact important information regarding RU-486 protocols, which Planned Parenthood was legally required to fully disclose. It is our hope that in the future, Planned Parenthood will not receive unfair advantage and support from the New Hampshire Dept. of Health and Human Services,” says Cormier.

While the state and Planned Parenthood admitted they spent time working together to determine which parts of the documents should and should not be released to NHRTL, Judge Tucker of the Strafford County Superior Court concluded “it should have produced the protocols to NHRTL without redactions.” Judge Tucker also ruled the state must pay all attorneys’ fees and costs to New Hampshire Right to Life.

“The people of New Hampshire do not need permission from Planned Parenthood to see records that are theirs to see. The court was right to recognize that the state should not have given Planned Parenthood the ability to determine what is and is not a public document,” says Michael Tierney, legal counsel of NHRTL and attorney of Wadleigh, Starr, and Peters in Manchester.

Tierney is an allied attorney with Alliance Defending Freedom. ADF’s press release on the decision:

CONCORD, N.H. – A New Hampshire court ruled Tuesday that the state’s Department of Health and Human Services was wrong to wait for permission from Planned Parenthood before releasing documents the agency was legally required to disclose under a valid “right to know” records request. The court therefore ruled that the state must pay attorneys’ fees to New Hampshire Right to Life, which filed the request through an Alliance Defending Freedom allied attorney.

The documents, specific to 2012 and 2015, are related to the state’s ongoing licensing of Planned Parenthood to distribute the RU-486 drug in a manner that violates FDA safety protocols, required under state law since 2006. The state and Planned Parenthood admitted that they spent time working together to determine which parts of the documents should and should not be released to NHRTL, but the court concluded that “it should have produced the protocols to NHRTL without redactions….”

“The people of New Hampshire do not need permission from Planned Parenthood to see records that are theirs to see. They deserve to know if government officials are allowing Planned Parenthood – already the subject of numerous scandals and investigations – to get away with skirting the law yet again,” said Michael Tierney, one of more than 3,000 private attorneys allied with ADF. “The court was right to recognize that the state should not have given Planned Parenthood the ability to determine what is and is not a public document.”

The Strafford County Superior Court’s decision comes in New Hampshire Right to Life v. New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services, a case related to a lawsuit concerning a larger number of records that is currently on appeal at the New Hampshire Supreme Court.

“Here, the public interest is served by allowing citizens to discern whether DHHS is properly enforcing the mandates of RSA 318:42, VII [the state’s pharmaceutical dispensing law],” the decision states. “In his May 2015 Order, Judge Mangones determined that the public interest outweighs the commercial interest at stake on this precise issue, and DHHS did not challenge that ruling. Accordingly, it should have produced the protocols to NHRTL without redactions in the first instance, and two months from when this litigation was initiated. The omission violated RSA 91-A,” the state’s “right to know” law; therefore, “the lawsuit was necessary to enforce compliance with the Right-to-Know Law and to obtain access to unredacted protocols.”

“The government costs taxpayers money when it decides to break the law,” noted ADF Legal Counsel Catherine Glenn Foster. “All the state had to do was follow a very simple law, but instead it continued to stonewall legitimate inquiries into its dealings with a scandal-ridden, billion-dollar abortion business.”

Freedom of (some) information: SCOTUS rejects hearing on NHRTL case

The Supreme Court of the United States giveth, and the Supreme Court taketh away, and sometimes the Supreme Court says “go away.” An important New Hampshire case got the go-away treatment on November 16, as the Court declined to hear New Hampshire Right to Life v. Department of Health and Human Services. 

As my constitutional law professor stressed to me years ago, “A decision not to make a decision is still a decision.” This one went the wrong way.

NHRTL president Jane Cormier said, ““We would have been thrilled if the U.S. Supreme Court had taken on our case. NHRTL has been very concerned with the lack of transparency within the Obama administration. Despite the fact the NH Executive Council voted down the funding of PPPNE in 2011, US Health and Human Services chose to fund Planned Parenthood without going through proper state approval or even follow federal regulations requiring competitive bidding.”

This was effectively a victory for Planned Parenthood of Northern New England, which since 2011 has fought efforts by New Hampshire residents to find out how a federal grant to PPNNE seemed to appear out of nowhere after the New Hampshire Executive Council in June 2011 denied a PP contract proposal. NHRTL sought documents under the federal Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) to find out how the federal grant was made. PP produced some of the requested documents, with parts redacted. It refused to produce others – in particular, its Manual of Medical Standards and Guidelines. FOIA grants exemptions for “trade secrets” and material that could harm a party in a future competitive bidding process, and PP successfully claimed that the Manual falls under that exemption.

By the way, NHRTL’s FOIA request for the Manual was not out of line. PP had to produce its Manual to the government in order to get the federal grant – a point made by two Justices who dissented from yesterday’s announcement.

It would have taken four out the nine Supreme Court justices to accept the case. Normally, denials are made without comment. In this case, though, Justice Clarence Thomas took the trouble to publish his reasons for wanting to grant a hearing, and he was joined by Justice Antonin Scalia. They are troubled by conflicting lower-court rulings in FOIA cases about documents that are exempt from release. “The First Circuit’s decision warrants review. It perpetuates an unsupported interpretation of an important federal statute and further muddies an already amorphous test. For these reasons, I respectfully dissent from the denial of certiorari.” (See the PDF of Justice Thomas’s remarks at page ten of this link at supremecourt.gov.)

Neither Thomas nor Scalia took the side of one party over the other. They simply pointed out that lower courts in FOIA cases around the country have made conflicting rulings about what can be exempted from FOIA requests. That’s the sort of situation that normally makes a case ripe for Supreme Court review. I wonder if the Court would have taken the NHRTL case if the names of the parties had been different.

Alliance Defending Freedom, which with local attorney Michael Tierney represented NHRTL in court, released a statement after this week’s Court action. “HHS says it can’t release the documents because doing so might affect Planned Parenthood’s ‘competitive position’ if it faces a commercial grant competitor in the future. HHS also refused to produce information about its own debates over how to sell the controversial decision to the public.”

A related but separate petition arising from the 2011 Executive Council decision is pending before the New Hampshire Supreme Court, New Hampshire Right to Life and Jackie Pelletier v. New Hampshire Director of Charitable Trusts Office (docket #2015-0366).

“New Hampshire’s Executive Council recently voted to again eliminate state funding for Planned Parenthood,” noted Cormier. “We will need to be vigilant to ensure this type of back-door unaccountable funding does not occur again.”

Meanwhile, as it did in 2011, PP blames the Executive Council for attacking women’s health care by denying PP a contract a few months ago. It’ll be interesting to see PP’s 2015 financial statements, which should reveal how much or how little PP is shifting its priorities away from public policy ($1.5 million in 2014, plus a lobbyist’s salary) and towards clinical care.

Prayer, peaceful witness, and “a bigger plan” (+ an event tomorrow)

A “Planned Parenthood New Hampshire Action Forum” is scheduled for 10 a.m. tomorrow morning, Saturday, November 14, at the Teamsters Hall in Manchester. New Hampshire Right to Life, according to its own blog and Facebook page, is going to be out front with a prayer rally at 9 a.m. From the Facebook post: “We will be carrying our ‘Planned Parenthood Sells Baby Parts’ banner. Bring any pro-life signs you would like to carry. We will have extra signs to share.”

Another public pro-life prayer rally and demonstration was held by Seacoast-area residents earlier this week outside a banquet hall in Portsmouth where the Joan Lovering Center was holding an event – the Lovering Center being a Seacoast abortion facility, sometime site of 40 Days for Life campaigns, and recipient of public funds (thanks to four Executive Councilors – all but David Wheeler). The Center sends out an occasional email newsletter, and one of the recipients recently forwarded me the latest one. I found this excerpt written by the Executive Director particularly interesting:

…this has been a trying time. Not only abortion services, but family planning is being attacked. Planned Parenthood is at the center of the hubbub, but I assure you it is having an impact on all providers. If the extreme right should succeed in defunding Planned Parenthood, they will come after the independent providers next and then the doctors who provide family planning and/or abortion services. Their current viciousness is just one step in a bigger plan to get women out of the workforce, out of athletics, out of government service and back into the kitchen and the nursery, not to be seen or heard from again.

That’s what’s known among educated people as a straw-man argument.

This is a recipient of state contracts who makes no distinction between violence and nonviolence, apparently equating resistance to public funding with “com[ing] after…doctors.” Peaceful resistance is the antithesis of violence, not a gateway to it. Anyone who commits violence, including vandalism, is trying to undermine and discredit peaceful witness.

This brings me back to NHRTL’s planned prayer rally at the PPNNE event. The president of NHRTL, Jane Cormier, is an acquaintance of mine. Yes, she wants to let taxpayers divest from the abortion industry. Ms. Cormier is a vocal coach, opera singer, opera manager, nonprofit founder and director, and former elected official. All by herself, she debunks the conspiracy theory that there’s “a bigger plan to get women out of the workforce, out of athletics, out of government service and back into the kitchen and the nursery, not to be seen or heard from again.”

I suspect a number of women will be involved in this weekend’s prayer rally. The chance of them not being seen or heard from again is zero.