Republican U.S. Sen. Kelly Ayotte faces a competitive reelection bid in New Hampshire and Democrats are already taking aim at her record on abortion and women’s health.
Gov. Maggie Hassan, the only Democratic candidate in the race, is one of the latest to lob those criticisms.
"She has voted to defund Planned Parenthood, which provides healthcare to about 12,000 Granite State women," Hassan said in a recent interview with the Concord Monitor, referring to Ayotte. "She’s voted to defund them six times."
Planned Parenthood, a women’s health care provider that also offers abortions, has become a lightning rod in recent years as elected officials in Washington and in New Hampshire have taken steps to cut the organization’s funding. The organization is no fan of Ayotte: Planned Parenthood’s political arm took out its first ad of the 2016 cycle this month targeting New Hampshire’s junior Senator.
We decided to take a closer look at Hassan’s claim.
Planned Parenthood of Northern New England runs five health centers across New Hampshire -- in Manchester, Claremont, Derry, Exeter and Keene. And roughly half of the patients who visit a Planned Parenthood clinic across the border in Vermont -- in White River Junction -- are from New Hampshire.
The Planned Parenthood centers in New Hampshire all provide contraception, annual exams, STI testing and treatment, and pregnancy testing. The Manchester location, which saw 4,779 patients in 2014, provides surgical and medical abortions. The Keene location, visited by 1,871 patients in 2014, offers medication abortions, according to Kayla McCarthy, with Planned Parenthood of Northern New England.
Altogether Planned Parenthood clinics in New Hampshire served just over 11,000 patients during 2014, according according to Vice President for Public Policy Jennifer Frizzell. Another 1,750 were seen in the White River Junction, VT clinic.
That would mean Planned Parenthood clinics together saw roughly 12,000 New Hampshire patients in 2014, in line with Hassan’s claim.
Now let’s look at how many times Ayotte has voted against Planned Parenthood funding.
Ayotte, elected to the U.S. Senate in 2010, has been a consistent opponent of abortion and critic of Planned Parenthood.
We checked with Hassan’s campaign and they pointed us to six votes.
Three votes took place all on the same day, Dec. 3, 2015.
3) Another amendment, proposed by Democrats, sought to continue federal funding for Planned Parenthood, but it was tabled (that is, set aside) and Ayotte voted in favor of tabling it. (President Obama ultimately vetoed the bill.)
4) Ayotte voted to advance a bill last August that sought to prohibit federal funding for Planned Parenthood. But the legislation failed to get the 60 votes it needed to move forward.
6) And in March 2011 Ayotte voted for a bill to fund the federal government, that included dozens of other spending items, but blocked federal funding to Planned Parenthood. The bill failed, 44 to 56. Ayotte said at the time: "Our country is in a fiscal crisis… Everyone is going to have to make sacrifices, including many private organizations that have relied on federal resources," according to her office.
In all, these six votes show some level opposition to funding for Planned Parenthood.
However, some of them were procedural, and not all offered a clean up-or-down funding decision, as Hassan’s statement suggests.
Ayotte’s office said she supported several other government spending bills that did not defund Planned Parenthood. And in September 2015, Ayotte voted not to move forward with a temporary government spending bill that sought to block federal funds for Planned Parenthood. Ayotte said at the time she supported defunding Planned Parenthood, but didn’t want to shut the government down to do it.
"Kelly Ayotte has voted to direct federal funding away from Planned Parenthood in an effort to better use federal dollars to fill gaps in women's health services for low-income women and preserve access to women’s health services," spokeswoman Liz Johnson said.
Hassan said Ayotte voted six times to defund Planned Parenthood.
Ayotte has been a consistent critic of Planned Parenthood and has shown support for defunding the organization or opposition to continued funding in at least six votes. It’s worth noting that some were procedural votes and several were much larger bills that included a provision on Planned Parenthood funding.
Hassan’s claim is accurate, but needs clarification. We rate her statement Mostly True.