Portsmouth Herald: Van Ostern touts support for women’s health

It was my pleasure to join our nominee for governor Colin Van Ostern for a roundtable discussion with leaders in women’s health on Friday. Listening to people like Joan Jacobs, Linda Griebsch, executive director of the Lovering Center, Dr. James Zuckerman, UNH’s Paul Drager means that Colin will be a governor who is truly informed on the state of women’s health in New Hampshire.

Van Ostern touts support for women’s health

By Brian Earlybearly@seacoastonline.com
GREENLAND — Democratic gubernatorial nominee Colin Van Ostern started his general election battle in the Seacoast against his Republican rival Chris Sununu with a focus on women’s health and reproductive issues.

A theme of Van Ostern’s campaign against Sununu, based on the roundtable discussion he held at the Joan G. Lovering Center Friday afternoon, will be utilizing the Newfields resident’s vote against a Planned Parenthood of New England contract in 2015.

“There is very clear contrast between someone who is supporting women’s health 100 percent of the time and someone who voted successfully to shut off funding,” Van Ostern said. “The truth is over the course of last year, fewer women got birth control, cancer screenings and annual exams at our state Planned Parenthood centers. That made our state weaker. It was the wrong direction for New Hampshire.”

Van Ostern repeated the state needed a governor who would support women’s health issues “100 percent of the time” and not let politics get in the way, throughout the meeting that was billed as a roundtable with experts in the field of women’s health care rights.

Sununu and Van Ostern are both New Hampshire executive councilors. Van Ostern represents District 2 and Sununu represents District 3. In August 2015, Van Ostern voted for a $639,000 Planned Parenthood contract, while Sununu voted against it. Sununu cited at the time investigations into videos released by the Center for Medical Progress alleging Planned Parenthood was profiting from the sale of aborted fetal tissue and organs, which was later discredited. In June of this year, Sununu voted for a $549,000 contract that restored funding to Planned Parenthood.

Van Ostern said when an investigation cleared Planned Parenthood in January, he urged Sununu and the other councilors who voted against it to restore funding, but they refused. “Between January to June, hundreds fewer women got birth control and cancer screenings,” Van Ostern said.

While Sununu voted against the Planned Parenthood contract in 2015, he voted in favor of a similar contract to provide family planning services, which includes access to contraception, STD testing, cancer screenings and counseling, to the Lovering Center as well as two other organizations in the state.

At the roundtable was Linda Griebsch, executive director of the Lovering Center, state Sen. Martha Fuller Clark, D-Portsmouth, James Zuckerman, an obstetrician who lives in New Castle, attorney Paul Drager, a medical ethicist, adjunct faculty at the University of New Hampshire and chairman of the Somersworth Democrats, Joan Jacobs, who has worked for Planned Parenthood and is a member of the Women for Van Ostern’s Steering Committee.

Van Ostern cited his main reason for originally running for Executive Council is when Republicans in 2010, held all five seats on the council, voted 3 to 2 to not renew a Planned Parenthood contract. Sununu, a pro-choice Republican, voted in favor of the contracts.

Another main theme at the campaign event was on New Hampshire’s Medicaid expansion. The state government extended the program for another two years, but it is set to expire, as Van Ostern noted a few times, under the next governor’s watch.

“I think we should make it permanent, he (Sununu) thinks we should end it,” Van Ostern said.

While Sununu opposed the program before it was passed, he has since said he has some issues with the program and thinks it needs to be revamped, like adding a work requirement, but hasn’t said that he wants to end it.

Van Ostern said the program has decreased the number of uninsured residents in the state and has led to a savings to hospitals and patients as those covered can now see a primary care doctor instead of going to an emergency room for lower priority issues. The hospitals and insurance companies will pick up the state’s share of $40 million costs for the next two years of the program, which Van Ostern believes would continue in the future.

Read the original story here.

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