Published On: Wed, Dec 23rd, 2015

New Hampshire: state loses valid ‘right to know’ battle over Planned Parenthood delays

A New Hampshire court ruled Tuesday that the state’s Department of Health and Human Services was wrong to wait for permission from Planned Parenthood before releasing documents the agency was legally required to disclose under a valid “right to know” records request. The court therefore ruled that the state must pay attorneys’ fees to New Hampshire Right to Life, which filed the request through an Alliance Defending Freedom allied attorney.

The documents, specific to 2012 and 2015, are related to the state’s ongoing licensing of Planned Parenthood to distribute the RU-486 drug in a manner that violates FDA safety protocols, required under state law since 2006. The state and Planned Parenthood admitted that they spent time working together to determine which parts of the documents should and should not be released to NHRTL, but the court concluded that “it should have produced the protocols to NHRTL without redactions….”

Photo/Nodar Kherkheulidze via wikimedia commons

Photo/Nodar Kherkheulidze via wikimedia commons

“The people of New Hampshire do not need permission from Planned Parenthood to see records that are theirs to see. They deserve to know if government officials are allowing Planned Parenthood – already the subject of numerous scandals and investigations – to get away with skirting the law yet again,” said Michael Tierney, one of more than 3,000 private attorneys allied with ADF. “The court was right to recognize that the state should not have given Planned Parenthood the ability to determine what is and is not a public document.”

The Strafford County Superior Court’s decision comes in New Hampshire Right to Life v. New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services, a case related to a lawsuit concerning a larger number of records that is currently on appeal at the New Hampshire Supreme Court.

“Here, the public interest is served by allowing citizens to discern whether DHHS is properly enforcing the mandates of RSA 318:42, VII [the state’s pharmaceutical dispensing law],” the decision states. “In his May 2015 Order, Judge Mangones determined that the public interest outweighs the commercial interest at stake on this precise issue, and DHHS did not challenge that ruling. Accordingly, it should have produced the protocols to NHRTL without redactions in the first instance, and two months from when this litigation was initiated. The omission violated RSA 91-A,” the state’s “right to know” law; therefore, “the lawsuit was necessary to enforce compliance with the Right-to-Know Law and to obtain access to unredacted protocols.”

“The government costs taxpayers money when it decides to break the law,” noted ADF Legal Counsel Catherine Glenn Foster. “All the state had to do was follow a very simple law, but instead it continued to stonewall legitimate inquiries into its dealings with a scandal-ridden, billion-dollar abortion business.”

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