(The Center Square) – New Hampshire's Executive Council has voted to reject funding for Planned Parenthood and other groups that provide abortion services in the state, drawing a sharp rebuke from Democrats, women’s reproductive rights groups and even Republican Gov. Chris Sununu, who called it disappointing.
On Wednesday, the Republican-controlled Executive Council voted 4-1 along party lines to eliminate funding for Planned Parenthood of Northern New England, Lovering Health center, and Equality Health Center.
Cindy Warmington, the lone Democrat on the council who voted to support the funding, said the vote means thousands of women won't be able to access affordable health services like cancer screenings, HIV testing and STI treatments, counseling for survivors of sexual abuse, contraception and other services.
"The Republicans of this state have stripped women of our access to care and have forced low-income and marginalized communities to forgo care if they cannot afford it," she said. Counselors who voted against the funding cited to commingling of state and federal funding in organizations that provide abortions with the other women's reproductive services.
Ahead of the vote, Health and Human Services Commissioner Lori Shibinette pointed out that none of the state's providers used state or federal funds for abortion care, and all of them were in compliance with state and federal rules. She said a failure to approve the contracts would have a negative impact on women’s health in the state and drive up teen birth rates. Sununu said he was "disappointed" by the vote and that it will mean a loss of funding for cancer screenings and other women’s health services.
"I brought these contracts forward because I support them, just as I have every year as governor, because they protect women’s health and it is the right thing to do," he said in a statement following the vote.
House Democrat Leader Renny Cushing called the council’s vote “shameful" and said it will mean a loss of crucial health care services for women in the state.
"We are seeing the New Hampshire GOP become more radicalized with each passing day and their refusal to listen to science is costing lives and costing Granite Staters our time stuck in this pandemic,” Cushing wrote. “Enough is enough.”
Democrats also pointed fingers at Sununu for appointing the Republican members of the Executive Council that voted against funding for the organizations.
“Gov. Sununu failed to exhibit any leadership of his party or his Council when he sat back and watched four Republicans dismantle the reproductive health care infrastructure of our state," Deputy Senate Democratic Leader Cindy Rosenwald, D-Nashua, said in a statement.
Kayla Montgomery, a spokeswoman for Planned Parenthood of Northern New England, said councilors who voted against the funding "chose to ignore public health experts and put their own views before the health and safety of their constituents."
“Healthy communities and healthy families start with access to quality, affordable health care, and Planned Parenthood has been a trusted provider in the Granite State for nearly 50 years," she said.
The three organizations that lost funding as a result of Wednesday's vote provide about 80% of the women's services in the state, according to Planned Parenthood.
Montgomery said the move jeopardizes care for about 12,000 patients and "disproportionately impacts low income and marginalized people – who have been hit the hardest during the pandemic."