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Executive Council Reinstates Planned Parenthood Contract; Sununu Casts Deciding Vote

Casey McDermott for NHPR

New Hampshire's Executive Council has approved state funding for Planned Parenthood.

The 3-2 vote on a family planning contract comes ten months after the council rejected an almost identical contract by the same margin.

In both cases, GOP councilor Chris Sununu cast the deciding vote.

One sign of this contract's political potency was the fact that Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign and the Democratic party used it rally supporters outside the statehouse. Another was the fact that every one of Chris Sununu's rivals in the Governor's race -Republican and Democrat - spent the past few days urging Sununu to vote for or against.

Throughout, Sununu kept his opinions to himself. This extended deep into the council debate itself, where other councilors were all quick to spell out where they stood.

"I think we have the chance today to right the wrong that was done last summer and I ask councilor Kenney, Councilor Wheeler and Councilor Sununu to do the right thing."

That's Democratic councilor Colin Van Ostern. Here's Republican David Wheeler, who passed out documents he insisted proves Planned Parenthood is unfit for any state funding.

"This is page two of the Planned Parenthood manual for medical standards and guidelines. It says 'abortal tissue donation programs.' Can you tell me what they are doing with abortal tissue donations?"

Chris Sununu's remarks at the council table were less telling. They mostly focused on what he considered a too onerous contract process.

"One thing I see is that we kind of went down the exactly the same path, and and don't know if we were expecting a different result, but we got the exact same result."

But not when it came to the vote - and in that's in keeping with Chris Sununu when it comes to Planned Parenthood. In 2011, Sununu backed a state contract with Planned Parenthood, which the then all-GOP council rejected.

He also voted for a Planned Parenthood contract in 2014, before flipping to oppose a similar contract a year later. At the time he cited since-discredited undercover videos shot by a conservative activist.

When Sununu spoke to reporters after the vote he insisted all his voters have been of a piece with his beliefs.

"I'm not going to let politics the importance of funds that go to help low-income women. I've been a supporter of these types of funds since the day I became a councilor, and I'm going to maintain my consistency with that support."

How that argument plays on the campaign trail - in the primary, and in the general election should Sununu get there - remains to be seen.

The council chambers were packed with activists on both sides of the issus and most seemed shocked by Sununu's vote. GOP voter Pam Coluntuono says she used to view Sununu favorably.

"Chris, I was going to support him, I'm not now."

Steps away, fellow gubernatorial candidate Frank Edelblut was quick to claim Sununu's vote shows he cant be trusted.

"Clearly what this shows is we've got a lack of principle here. We need a governor who has principles that the voters can rely on."

But some other Republicans, even ones disappointed by Sununu's vote, said Sununu was in a tough spot.

"Really you are damned if you do and damned if you don't."

That's Former state rep Phyills Katasakores,

"Well, he felt he had to do what he had to do. Im sure but im not that happy about his vote at all, and I think this will hurt him."

Perhaps, but Katasakores said she still plans on voting for him.

The contract approved today provides about $640,000 dollars to Planned Parenthood of Northern New England and the Joan G. Lovering Health Center in Portsmouth for family planning, cancer screenings and other services.

Josh has worked at NHPR since 2000.
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