New Hampshire Executive Council rejects state funding for Planned Parenthood

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New Hampshire's Republican-led Executive Council rejected $639,000 in state funding for Planned Parenthood along party lines Wednesday amid a renewed national debate over whether the organization should receive public money.

The five-member council took up Planned Parenthood funding as part of roughly $1 million in state contracts with four health providers for family planning services, including STD testing, cancer screenings, counseling and access to contraception. The council, controlled 3-2 by Republicans, approved contracts with the Concord Feminist Health Center, the Joan G. Lovering Health Center on the Seacoast and Weeks Medical Center in the North Country.

In rejecting the contract, Republican councilors cited recently released videos by anti-abortion activists showing the organization's officials discussing providing medical researchers with tissue from aborted fetuses. Conservatives allege that the organization is profiting from selling fetal tissue, a charge it denies.

"You can't divorce what's going on nationally from Planned Parenthood of Northern New England and we need a real investigation," said GOP Councilor David Wheeler.

Gov. Hassan said the state Attorney General's office has been given no evidence of illegal activity in New Hampshire and therefore will not be pursuing an investigation into Planned Parenthood.

"We do not launch investigations in the state of New Hampshire on rumor," she said.

Republican councilor Chris Sununu was at the center of attention Wednesday. He has previously voted to support Planned Parenthood contracts. In 2011, when the council rejected a contract with Planned Parenthood, he was one of two Republicans to buck his party and vote in favor of the contract. Sununu said he received more than 1,000 messages from constituents and they overwhelmingly urged him to reject the contract.

Sununu said multiple times that he is pro-choice and thinks the state should look for other providers to contract with for family planning services.

"Things are different now," he said. "We have to take a step back and just take a pause and say 'Is this a company and a business that we should be actively engaging [with]?'"

The contract rejection will cut Planned Parenthood's public funding by about one-third in New Hampshire, officials said, as the organization will still receive federal money. Both Hassan and Jennifer Frizzell, vice president for public policy at Planned Parenthood of Northern New England, said the loss of the state contract will result in diminished services.

"Today's decision will have a direct impact on New Hampshire women and their families," Frizzell said in a statement. "Without these funds, PPNNE will be forced to cut direct program costs, which could mean shortening health center hours, eliminating staff positions, and reducing patient access to affordable care."