There’s less than three months until the most important election in living memory. I’m talking, of course, about the Presidential election. It’s fair to say that most Americans understand the importance of voting in the general election on November 3rd. But New Hampshire residents are often unaware of another critical election on November 3rd - New Hamsphire’s Executive Council.
The Executive Council is a unique 5-person elected body that serves as a check and balance on the governor. Each councilor holds a vast amount of power because each represents about a fifth of the population. The Executive Council has three main responsibilities that impact sexual and reproductive health care access: approving contracts, approving judges, and approving commissioners.
Firstly, all state contracts over $10,000 must be approved by the Executive Council. The New Hampshire Family Planning Program, including Planned Parenthood of Northern New England, relies on these contracts, meaning the ability of these health centers to provide high-quality care is in the hands of our Councilors.
Secondly, the Council is responsible for approving Supreme, Superior, and Circuit Court judges. The significance of these appointments cannot be understated. As the gatekeepers for our laws, judges play an important role in determining the legal landscape of New Hampshire. The power to appoint judges is the power to create a legacy that will long outlive a councilor’s term and can shape New Hampshire politics for generations to come.
Finally, the Executive Council approves committee and department heads, including the Department of Health and Human Services, Department of Education, and the state attorney general. These departments directly affect the day-to-day lives of every Granite Stater, and oversee a variety of important programs, including those that provide sexual and reproductive health care.
In the past, the Council has had strong support of family planning providers. Up until 2011, PPNNE contracts were approved, assuring the continuation of preventive and essential reproductive health care - like birth control and cancer screenings. However, in 2011 and 2015, PPNNE’s contracts were rejected, cutting funding and politicizing health care. With the current national landscape, it’s more important than ever to elect state officials that will support and defend reproductive autonomy in New Hampshire.
Planned Parenthood believes that health care shouldn’t be a political issue. Bodily autonomy shouldn’t be a political issue. Reproductive freedom shouldn’t be a political issue. But because of the hyper-politicized reproductive landscape in New Hampshire and globally, this enormous power is in the hands of our politicians. It is critical that all residents understand the gravity of this election. Check your NH voter registration status, request your mail in ballot, and get those ballots in early! Voting is our superpower and we have work to do.