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Drew Cline: Why Chris Sununu voted against contracting with Planned Parenthood

In 2011, Republican Executive Councilor Chris Sununu voted in favor of state contracts with Planned Parenthood. On Wednesday, he voted against those contracts. The undercover videos showing Planned Parenthood officials discussing how they “crush” less lucrative body parts to keep more lucrative ones in tact for later sale, among other chill-inducing and possibly illegal practices, led him to become the pivotal vote that denied Planned Parenthood access to state taxpayer money. In an interview after the vote, he explained his switch.

Sununu calls himself pro-choice, though he dislikes the way the sides of the abortion divide are labeled.

“I hate the definitions pro-choice and pro-life, as if we all fit in one category. I’m a strong proponent of parental notification, of the fetal homicide bill that was brought before the Senate this year, of not transporting minors across state lines. At the heart of it, yes, I am pro-choice; if a woman becomes pregnant, I do believe she has a right to choose.”

This vote was not about abortion rights, he said, though Democrats are trying to frame it that way.

“This contract does not have anything to do with pro-choice or pro-life. That is not at the heart of the issue. It is who are we going to do business with. It goes to the integrity and character of the state of New Hampshire. Even Hillary Clinton called those videos disturbing,” he said.

“We are choosing to say no to using state funds to go to this kind of organization with these kinds of dubious business practices.”

It is the same standard most people would apply to any business up for a state contract, he said.

“Given that Planned Parenthood is under investigation by the federal government and is in trouble in at least 10 states, we should take a pause.

“If this were any other vendor, there wouldn’t be a question. We wouldn’t provide the services. I don’t understand the Democrats’ desire to go so far out of their way to make an exception for Planned Parenthood. We just simply shouldn’t be doing busines with an organization like that.”

In 2011, Sununu said one reason he voted for the Planned Parenthood contracts was because there were few alternative providers of the non-abortion services the contract was intended to fund. He called around to other health care providers to see if they would enter the market for those services, he said. They told him they would not.

“No. 1, there’s not enough money in these contracts for us to do this work,” he said he was told. “And 2, they didn’t want a turf war with Planned Parenthood over this work.”

Sununu hopes alternative providers will enter the market now to offer choices to women who do not want to do business with Planned Parenthood. He said he received 1,000 phone calls in the weeks leading up to the vote, and some were from women who said they do not object to family planning services, they just don’t want Planned Parenthood to be the provider.

“I want an open bidding process,” Sununu said. “I want many people trying to provide these services because it can provide us choice,” he said. The contracts voted down on Wednesday “could have been put out to bid, but no one else indicated any interest in bidding on the contracts, and no one has for years, again because they just don’t want the battle with Planned Parenthood,” he said.

The shortage of other providers has emboldened Planned Parenthood and Democrats to claim that defunding that organization would leave women without critical health care. Though there are other providers in the state (some got contracts on Wednesday), some places are served only by Planned Parenthood. If more providers entered the market, “defunding” Planned Parenthood would be less controversial.

One wonders, are there no pro-life organizations in New Hampshire willing to offer all the same services Planned Parenthood offers, minus the abortions? Sununu is right; it would change the game in New Hampshire by allowing Republicans to fund women’s health clinics without giving taxpayer money to an abortion provider.

Andrew Cline is editorial page editor of the New Hampshire Union Leader. His column runs on Thursdays. You can follow him on Twitter @Drewhampshire.

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