March 15, 2012 Print

Court Orders Obama Administration to Release Paperwork

by Karla Dial

The Obama administration this week released paperwork showing how it approved a grant to a branch of Planned Parenthood in New Hampshire — but only after a federal court ordered officials to quit stalling.

Last year, the New Hampshire Executive Council — a group of five councilors who work with the governor to oversee the state’s business affair — denied a grant to Planned Parenthood of Northern New England (PPNNE), which runs six clinics in the state. U.S. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen then appealed directly to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to fund PPNE directly, bypassing the state.

Five days after applying, PPNNE had a $1 million grant from the Obama administration.

New Hampshire Right to Life filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request to find out if HHS followed its own rules requiring a competitive bidding process for federal grants. When the Obama administration failed to comply, the group sued, with the help of the Alliance Defense Fund (ADF).

On Feb. 24, a federal judge ordered the government to release the documents by April 1 — more than 125 days after receiving the FOIA.

The ones which have trickled out so far, said ADF attorney Michael Tierney, have contained a few surprises.

“It appears the real impetus for having this single-source grant go to Planned Parenthood was so they could continue giving out contraception prescriptions without having people go to a pharmacy,” he said. “When Planned Parenthood lost its federal funding status in New Hampshire, all of a sudden they had to hand out prescriptions and the poor women had to go to the pharmacy. That caused Planned Parenthood to lose $4,000 a day.”

All six Planned Parenthood clinics in New Hampshire are located in urban areas — and the one in Manchester is adjacent to a Rite-Aid pharmacy.

“When I saw the email saying $4,000 a day, I was flabbergasted at how you could incur that much cost,” Tierney said. “It’s a small state with six clinics. The maximum clients they claim to see a year is 16,000. Those numbers just didn’t match up very well.”

HHS said it made the grant because family-planning services would be curtailed in New Hampshire without it. But the documents released so far tell a different story.

“We knew Planned Parenthood told the state it was continuing to provide services without the grant. The reason they said that was they wanted to make sure the state didn’t go around looking for other service providers,” Tierney said. “We recently learned that the vice president of Planned Parenthood called HHS and also let them know they were continuing to provide services — so HHS knew this to be untrue.”

Several questions remain as the documents continue to come forth, including several concerning Shaheen’s involvement.

“We will not be taking any particular action until we’ve had an opportunity to review all” the documents, Tierney said. The government has until April 15 to explain those it’s redacted or withheld.

In the meantime, New Hampshire is working to defund Planned Parenthood again, this time legislatively. HB 228 is scheduled for a Senate hearing on April 5.

Read the grant application and approval files.

Read the federal court order.

Read the lawsuit, New Hampshire Right to Life v. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.