News Contraception

New Hampshire Attacks On Planned Parenthood About Politics, Not Care

Robin Marty

If the Executive Council attempts to end Planned Parenthood funding look like they have Susan B. Anthony List fingerprints all over it, that's because it does.

It’s been over a year since Planned Parenthood centers in New Hampshire were denied a renewed contract as official state family planning providers by the Republican Executive Council. Since then, the organization has continued to provide essential birth control and family planning assistance to low-income and uninsured women in the state with Title X funding directly from the federal government. However, a recent move to pull their license to dispense contraception is now being proposed.

The Republicans who opposed allowing Planned Parenthood to have a family planning contract with the state weren’t shy about expressing their opposition to the idea of women having contraception in the first place. One member notoriously stated that he was against any funding of birth control, saying, “If they want to have a good time, why not let them pay for it?”

That=e mentality continues to permeate the board, resulting in this new attempt to attack Planned Parenthood by denying them a license to dispense birth control, emergency contraception, and RU-486, claiming that since they do not have a family planning contract with the state, they do not count under pharmacy licensing rules.

There’s little doubt that this is no longer about funding, and is now a game of political jockeying. The new challenge to Planned Parenthood was filed by Michael Tierney, attorney for New Hampshire Right to Life and an allied attorney for Alliance Defending Freedom (formerly the Alliance Defense Fund) who also happens to be running for a seat on the Executive Council this cycle.

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“Mr. Tierney’s constant and repeated efforts to eliminate birth control pills at Planned Parenthood health centers are a dangerous distraction — dangerous because he would restrict access to birth control for tens of thousands of New Hampshire women and families, and a distraction because this obsessive campaign does nothing to help our economy or support economic development,” said Democrat Colin Van Ostern, who is challenging Tierney for the Council seat. “We need an Executive Council that brings more focus to jobs & the economy, and less of this government interference in our personal lives that Mr. Tierney is so passionate about.”

Ironically, the singling out of Planned Parenthood for special treatment by the government is the same sort of complaint Tierney would rally against while acting as an attorney for his clients. In 2010, when fighting zoning conditions the government placed on a local church, Tierney stated, “Disagreement with an organization’s religious or political views should never motivate the government to impose special restrictions upon a church’s building project.” However, when it comes to imposing special restrictions on other organizations because of their political views or the fact that they provide a public health service to low-income women, that’s just fine.

The politicizing of Planned Parenthood in New Hampshire, much like across the country, in essence has little to do with the organization itself, and more to do with the agenda of ending access to birth control in the first place. Leading the charge along with New Hampshire Right To Life is Cornerstone Action group, yet another “traditional values” organization dedicated to “protecting the natural rights of families.” On their agenda? 

“Vote to preserve the rights of all citizens, including their freedom to practice their faith; Vote to protect human life from conception to death; Vote to defend traditional marriage; Vote to restore the natural right of parents to determine the best way to educate, raise and care for their children; And vote to enact free market economic policies.”

Cornerstone’s chairwoman, Shannon McGinley, is unabashed in her support of cutting off access to Planned Parenthood by any means possible. “It is impossible to ensure that taxpayer dollars directed to Planned Parenthood for so-called family-planning services don’t also pay for abortions, and it is for that reason alone that it was appropriate for the New Hampshire Executive Council to reject the abortion business’s state contract for family-planning services last year,” McGinely wrote in an op-ed piece. But even there she admits the actual agenda is to end birth control access all together. 

“Furthermore, fertility is not a disease that needs to be managed with medical treatment, and we know the exact behavioral cause of pregnancy. With the price of birth control so low, no rational person would involve government in this situation where men and women should bear the full responsibility.”

In other words, “If they want a good time, why not let them pay for it?” is back.

If it all sounds familiar, it should.  The text of New Hampshire’s legislative attempt to defund Planned Parenthood, the “Whole Woman’s Health Funding Priority Act of New Hampshire” is very similar to that of the Arizona “Whole Woman’s Health Funding Priority Act of Arizona,” a model legislation piece crafted by the Susan B. Anthony List. Former Rep. Marilyn Musgrave, a SBA List spokeswoman, promoted the work in conjunction with local lawmakers in both states.

Also assisting in crafting the New Hampshire version? Alliance Defence Fund. That bill didn’t pass.

Now, ADF allied attorney Tierney is running for the vacant seat left open by the member who provided the swing vote that canceled Planned Parenthood’s family planning contract with the state. Tierney wasn’t yet running for the office when he filed his complaint against the family planning group, but being elected to the Council isn’t likely to stop his assault on the provider, or on any group that may not conform with his socially conservative beliefs.

“There are almost 30,000 women, men and teens in New Hampshire who rely on some level of federal or federal and state funding for family planning services,”  said Jennifer Frizzell, Senior Policy Adviser from the Planned Parenthood of Northern New England Action Fund. “If an Executive Council member who is so focused on ending access to those services were to be elected and were to vote his tenure to those causes, that could be extremely disruptive to the well-being and safety of those individuals and our community.”

It could also be an issue that would spill over into other areas the group may potentially vote on. “The Executive Council has broader reach over contracts that effect the Medicaid program, over contracts that effect a lot of social welfare and health spending,” said Frizzell. “That type of ideological agenda could bring real harm to the health and well-being of families.”

Harm to families that will also cost the state money.

“Historically, the role of the council in overseeing government spending and good business practices is to make sure that the most qualified most cost-effective vendors are doing business with the state,” said Frizzell. “In the case of someone pursuing his agenda, he appears willing to discard the partners and the vendors who are giving the tax payers the best value and the best outcome for their dollar and instead to inject his ideology in the programs.”

To have groups such as SBA List or ADF writing legislation, pushing lawsuits, or otherwise trying to influence local policies and spending priorities may boost the profiles of anti-choice politicians, but it doesn’t sit well with the voters who will eventually decide whether or not they stay in office. “New Hampshire has a long bipartisan tradition of respecting reproductive privacy and of funding programs that make fiscal and health policy sense, like family planning,” said Frizzell. “The public finds [these national groups] very unwelcome, and does not at all embrace the way they are trying to change the nature of our state with outside money and outside values.”

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