Anti-Abortion Group Sues for Documents on U.S. Funding of New Hampshire Planned Parenthood

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New Hampshire Right to Life is suing the Obama administration for access to records about a decision to fund Planned Parenthood in violation of state rules, a move that comes amid efforts by some state officials to get rid of virtually all federal funding to The Granite State.

The organization filed suit on Thursday after complaining that the Department of Health and Human Services was ignoring its Freedom of Information Act request for documentation explaining why it awarded a $1 million grant to help fund family planning clinics in six cities despite a state decision to reject the money and allegedly absent a competitive process for health clinics to vie for the grant.

The people of New Hampshire "have the right to know why the Obama administration gave Planned Parenthood, the nation's largest baby killer, a million taxpayer dollars while cutting funding for state hospitals and community clinics," New Hampshire Right to Life President Kurt Wuelper said in a statement to news outlets.

Wuelper, whose group also wants Health and Human Services to release any similar documents regarding Planned Parenthood grants in other states, said the administration has flooded New Hampshire "with unwanted abortion money and has violated the public trust by covering up communications with its abortion industry cronies."

The grant was distributed in September, three months after the state's five-member Executive Council voted 3-2 to reject $1.8 million in federal money for health care clinics that provide abortions.

In October, the Right to Life group asked Health and Human Services to explain how it decided to award money to Planned Parenthood without a competitive bidding system. The government responded that it could not provide an response within 30 days, as the law requires, and didn't say how long it would take.

Right to Life filed suit Thursday in U.S. District Court in Concord, New Hampshire. The Associated Press reported that Health and Human Services spokesman Keith Maley said his agency won't comment on pending litigation.

But supporters of the Obama administration say the group has no chance of succeeding.

"It's federal money," said Colin Van Ostern, a former campaign aide to Democratic U.S. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, who announced the federal award in September.

Van Ostern, currently a candidate to defeat freshman Dan St. Hilaire, the swing vote on the Executive Council rejecting the federal money, told that the U.S. government can disperse money to whomever it wants even when state officials reject it.

"It is a shame the Executive Council surrendered local control by refusing to direct this federal funding to local providers, but at the end of the day it's far better for the federal government to help directly than for thousands more New Hampshire women to lose their access to birth control and cancer screenings in 2012 like they did in 2011."

New Hampshire's Executive Council is unique from other states. The panel, elected by voters, is responsible for approving all state contracts over $10,000.

After the group moved to stop federal funding for Planned Parenthood, the three council members who opposed the money filed a formal protest with the federal government saying its contract is void because it contravenes the state's sovereign authority.

The council members aren't the only ones making that case. A state legislative committee convened last February to review participation in all federal grant-in-aid programs issued a report in November claiming that New Hampshire's sovereign authority is being undermined by the federal government.

The panel's report to the state Legislature recommended eliminating pretty much all federal funding, including for education, nutritional programs, weatherization assistance, community policing, promotion of the arts and several other federal programs.

Arguing that 30 percent of New Hampshire's operational budget is in the form of federal money -- often with intrusive rules accompanying it -- the committee, led by state Rep. Gregory M. Sorg, suggested that every state program that uses federal dollars must contain an explanation of the constitutional authority permitting federal involvement.

"The extent to which the federal government has insinuated itself into the budget and the administration of the government of this state has been found to be too great for this committee even adequately to identify and quantify, much less to determine the remedies for in the time available to it," the report reads. "The cure to the state's by-now narcotic-like dependence on federal funding for even basic state and local services cannot be other than a long term process."

New Hampshire's Legislature convenes next month, and while no bill has yet been introduced to tackle all the panel's recommendations, Van Ostern said it's suicidal to reject federal tax dollars, particularly since New Hampshire sends more money to the U.S. Treasury than it gets back.

"The Tea Partification of our state government last year is resulting in lawsuits, legal petitions and thousands of women being turned away from health care centers," he said. "It's pathetic and embarrassing for our state."

The Tax Foundation lists New Hampshire as fourth among states in the ratio of federal taxes sent to spending returned, earning 0.71 cents for every dollar paid to the federal government in 2005, the most recent data available.