NH Executive Council Republicans again reject family planning contracts

By ANNMARIE TIMMINS

New Hampshire Bulletin

Published: 11-30-2023 6:30 PM

For the fifth time in three years, the four Republicans on the Executive Council voted Wednesday to reject contracts with three organizations that had provided the majority of the state’s low-cost basic reproductive health care, such as cancer screenings, STD treatment, and contraception.

Only Democrat Cinde Warmington voted to approve funding to Planned Parenthood of Northern New England, Equality Health Center, and Lovering Health Center. In its request to the council, the Department of Health and Human Services estimated those three organizations would have served nearly 5,381 low-income individuals in fiscal years 2024 and 2025.

“The New Hampshire Executive Council’s repeated rejection of funding that the New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services has set aside for vital reproductive health care providers is not only disheartening but dangerous,” said Kayla Montgomery, vice president of public affairs for Planned Parenthood of Northern New England, in a statement following the vote. “These facilities are lifelines for our communities, offering essential preventive care that impacts the health and well-being of thousands of Granite Staters.”

The council voted, 4-1, to continue family planning contracts with four other organizations the department estimates will provide reproductive health care to 4,131 individuals in the next two years: Amoskeag Health, Lamprey Health Care, Coos County Family Health Services in Berlin, and the Community Action Programs of Belknap and Merrimack counties.

The difference, councilors have said during prior votes, is that those four organizations do not perform abortions where Planned Parenthood of Northern New England, Equality Health Center, and Lovering Health Center do. The council’s Republicans have said they don’t want taxpayer dollars paying for abortions.

They have not been persuaded by state audits that show the three do not use state or federal money to provide abortions. It is enough, the councilors have said, that the three are performing abortions in buildings where public funding helps pay for electricity and heat.

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In a letter earlier this week seeking the council’s support, Montgomery said that 61 percent of its patients qualify as low-income under the federal poverty level, which would equal earnings of less than $29,160 a year for a household of one. 

She said state funding for reproductive health care such as STI testing and treatment is more important than ever. 

She noted that sexually transmitted infections are “skyrocketing” in New Hampshire. Montgomery cited a report from the Department of Health and Human Services that said New Hampshire is in “outbreak” status for gonorrhea and syphilis. Cases for both declined between 2019 and 2020, according to the report, but increased significantly in 2021.

Warmington issued a statement following the vote: “It is simply outrageous how, time and time again, these Republican executive councilors will put their own radical ideologies over the health and well-being of Granite Staters,” she said. “Today, they voted to defund cancer screenings for low-income individuals. They voted to reject funding for birth control, for STD testing and treatment, and for health education materials to vulnerable populations in need. Their actions today will negatively impact New Hampshire’s reproductive health care system for years to come.” 

Sandi Denoncour, executive director of Lovering Health Center, said in a statement that losing family planning contracts in 2021 forced it to make staffing decisions, limiting the availability of care. 

Ahead of the vote, Reproductive Equality Now submitted a petition signed by 450 people urging the council to reinstate contracts with Planned Parenthood of Northern New England, Equality Health Center, and Lovering Health Center.

In a statement following Wednesday’s vote, Rebecca Hart Holder, the group’s president, said: “Today, the Executive Council turned their backs on the most vulnerable patients and communities in the state, once again denying basic, essential family planning services to Granite Staters. The Executive Council is again caving to anti-abortion misinformation that falsely claims that family planning dollars would be used for abortion.”