Judge: Obama Must Furnish Planned Parenthood Funding Docs

State   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Mar 13, 2012   |   1:06PM   |   Washington, DC

A federal judge on Friday ordered the Obama administration to turn over documents related to the HHS department sending taxpayer dollars to Planned Parenthood after New Hampshire officials cut off funding for the abortion business.

Last June, the New Hampshire Executive Council voted to cancel a $1.8 million dollar contract with Planned Parenthood, citing that taxpayers would be subsidizing the abortion business. After that decision, the Obama Administration awarded a non-competitive $1 million contract with Planned Parenthood of Northern New England, bypassing the state’s earlier decision to reject taxpayer funding of the abortion giant.

Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, a pro-abortion Democrat, announced the grant through her office after writing to Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius urging her to force the state to fund the abortion business.

Later last year, the New Hampshire Executive Council filed a formal protest with the Department of Health and Human Services and the Government Accountability Office complaining about the grant.

Three members of the Council, as represented by attorneys with the Alliance Defense Fund, requested that HHS declare the grant void. In their complaint, they say “the Grant by HHS was improper, irregular, unnecessary, in contravention of the authority of the Executive Council and its duly elected members, and in disregard for the sovereignty of the State of New Hampshire.”

The letter also criticizes the Obama administration for a lack of transparency, saying the HHS has treated its requests for more information about the grant Obama officials forced New Hampshire to make with Planned Parenthood were treated as formal Freedom of Information requests that take some time to process. As a result, New Hampshire officials say they have not been able to get information they need to respond.

Administration officials did not provide any competitive process for other non-abortion agencies to compete for the $1 million grant and HHS officials indicated that was done because Planned Parenthood was the sole grant recipient previously.

Following the decision, New Hampshire Right to Life has filed a lawsuit against the Department of Health and Human Services. The lawsuit says the Obama administration failed to respond to a federal Freedom of Information request it filed in October seeking more information about the $1 million grant to Planned Parenthood. NH RTL filed suit in U.S. District Court in Concord.

Responding to the lawsuit, Judge Paul Barbadoro ordered the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to release all public records pertaining to the grant, according to a New Hampshire newspaper. [related]

NHRTL alleges in its suit that Shaheen’s campaign received more than $390,000 in campaign contributions from political action committees controlled by Planned Parenthood, EMILY’s List and similar groups.

“This is a political stunt that has no legal merit,” said Shaheen’s spokeswoman, Faryl Ury. “Sen. Shaheen is going to continue to fight to ensure that women in New Hampshire have access to preventive health care services and won’t be intimidated by those who seek to deny those rights.”

The DHHS responded to the allegations through the office of U.S. Attorney John Kacavas. By answer from Assistant U.S. Attorney Gretchen Leah Witt, the DHHS claimed it intended to release relevant documents “after a reasonable search” and denied the six Planned Parenthood facilities are “abortion clinics,” as alleged by NHRTL.

Theresa Leppard, spokeswoman for the U.S. Attorney’s Office, did not immediately return a message seeking her comment about Friday’s court ruling.

Federal Judge Paul Barbadoro issued the decision denying the DHHS’s request to delay production of the requested documents. The judge found DHHS failed to prove it would suffer irreparable harm if it was not granted a delay to produce the documents and set an April 1 deadline for the release of the documents.

“New Hampshire Right To Life looks forward to reviewing the documents and ensuring all federal laws were complied with,” said Michael Tierney, a NHRTL attorney.

Tierney, of Wadleigh, Starr & Peters, PLLC in Manchester, said Right to Life wants to determine if the HHS department contacted other health care providers as potential grant recipietns and he cited communications from NH RTL to HHS.

“NHRTL has an interest in analyzing these communications and other documents to insure that HHS did not inappropriately or unlawfully award a grant to Planned Parenthood that should or could have been competitively bid and/or granted to some of the hospitals or community health centers that serve the cities where Planned Parenthood’s abortion clinics are located,” he said. “New Hampshire Right to Life believes that with the recent cuts in subsidies to hospitals, the full-service hospitals located in each of the communities where Planned Parenthood operates an abortion clinic, would be better able to provide a variety of health care services to people in need.”

In a statement, New Hampshire Right to Life President Kurt Wuelper said “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.”

“The administration has defied the will of the people by flooding New Hampshire with unwanted abortion money and has violated the public trust by covering up its communications with its abortion industry cronies. It’s time for HHS to reveal what it is hiding and stop violating the Freedom of Information Act,” Wuelper added.

Councilor David Wheeler, one of the three members of the council, called the decision by the Obama administration one of “arrogance” because the will of New Hampshire officials was not followed.

“Even though the state of New Hampshire turned down Planned Parenthood as a contractor, the Obama administration says you’re going to take it anyway, whether you like it or not,” Wheeler told the Monitor.

Before the decision, Wheeler was concerned New Hampshire Health Commissioner Nick Toumpas was conspiring with the Obama administration to go over the heads of the council to restore the funding.

The decision comes after the Obama administration sent the state a strongly-worded letter to complain. The Health and Human Services Department is claiming the state broke federal rules in denying the Planned Parenthood contract and it alleges the state must provide family planning services to low-income women and that de-funding Planned Parenthood puts it at risk of losing federal funding by supposedly denying women access to family planning — even though other alternatives are available from other agencies.

After Indiana’s decision to de-fund Planned Parenthood, the top Medicaid official in the Obama administration denied Indiana’s use of its new state law that would cut off anywhere from $2 million to $3 million the Planned Parenthood abortion business receives in federal funds via the Indiana government through Medicaid. The Obama administration told the state it can’t implement the new law, with Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services Administrator Donald Berwick denying a request to deny funds saying the federal Medicaid law stipulates that states can’t exclude providers based on the services they provide.

Indiana refused to comply and is standing its ground against a lawsuit Planned Parenthood filed and is appealing the Obama administration’s ruling that it can’t determine who receives the Medicaid tax dollars the state is given to dole out. But Marcus Barlow, a spokesman for Indiana’s Family and Social Services Administration, told National Journal, “The way the law was written, it went into effect the moment the governor signed it. We were just advised by our lawyers that we should continue to enforce Indiana law.”

Councilor Dan St. Hilaire of Concord, Ray Wieczorek of Manchester, and David Wheeler of Milford voted against funding on the council. Raymond S. Burton of Bath and Chris Sununu of Newfields supported funding the abortion business.

While the council approved contracts for legitimate medical centers and organizations, St. Hilaire told the newspaper that Planned Parenthood does abortions and its CEO earns in excess of $250,000 a year. St. Hilaire also cited the fact that most of the services and administration are located outside New Hampshire, in Vermont.

Commenting on the rejection of the contract, Kevin Smith, the director of the pro-life group Cornerstone Action, said he applauds “a majority of the Executive Council for scrutinizing every penny of tax-payer dollars by rejecting the contract for Planned Parenthood.”

“The taxpayers have made it very clear that they do not want one cent going towards the funding of abortions, either directly or indirectly,” Smith said. “Not to mention, it is obscene how much of PPNNE’s current revenue of $18 million is earmarked for things like overhead costs, salaries, marketing, and public policy advocacy. New Hampshire women deserve better than a “non-profit” that would deny women health services because they value administrative costs and political power above patient care.”

Smith indicated that the most recent annual report for Planned Parenthood of Northern New England shows that, of its $18 million dollars in revenue, $3,126,841 (or 16.9%) was spent on general and administrative costs, $714,877 (or 3.9%) was spent on policy advocacy spending or lobbying, $597,000 (or 3.2%) was spent on marketing and communications and $568,397 (or 3.1%) was spent on fundraising.