New Hampshire’s Democratic congressional delegation and leaders of the state’s family planning services defended women’s health care rights on Monday, following the New Hampshire Executive Council decision last week to refuse to extend contracts of three public family planning providers
In a 4-1 Republican majority vote, the Executive Council cut funding for the love health center in Greenland, Equality Health Center at Concorde and Northern New England Family Planning. Democrats say it compromises Granite State patients’ access to mammograms and cancer screenings, sexually transmitted disease testing, health counseling and a variety of other services. Republican Gov. Chris Sununu also said he disagreed with the vote.
“The Executive Council’s dangerous decision to end these contracts for family planning services statewide is a misguided effort to deprive women of their constitutional right to personal autonomy and privacy and freedom. comprehensive set of reproductive health resources,” said Rep. Annie Kuster. .
Read more about last week’s vote:NH council votes against funds for family planning services despite Sununu’s objection
All three family planning organizations offer abortion services. PPNNE’s six sites serving residents of New Hampshire, facilities in Keene, Manchester and White River Junction, Vermont, offer medical and surgical abortions, while its sites in Claremont, Derry and Exeter only provide referrals for the abortion.
Abortion law and funding
The state budget signed into law by Sununu this summer includes a ban on abortions beyond 24 weeks’ gestation, which will go into effect in 2022, except in medical emergencies. A healthcare provider who knowingly performs abortions after 24 weeks, or who “knowingly disregards a substantial risk that the fetus has a gestational age of at least 24 weeks,” according to the bill’s text. budget, will have committed a class B crime punishable by seven years. years in prison. Additionally, they could be fined between $10,000 and $100,000.
A new state requirement in the state budget bill requires the New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services to audit reproductive health care facilities to ensure no funding is available. is allocated to abortion services.
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However, the Republican advisers who voted against the contracts (Joseph Kenney, Ted Gatsas, David Wheeler and Janet Stevens) raised concerns that the money would meddle with funds from other clinics.
“All these people claiming this is an effort to reduce abortions (are incorrect),” Senator Jeanne Shaheen said. “It’s just plain wrong. It’s about getting health care to women and families who really need it and most of them don’t have any other options to get their Health care. And unfortunately, what we are seeing now is that this decision means that for many of these women and families, they will have difficulty getting the care they need.”
Stevens, from Rye, who represents most Seacoast communities on the council, was not immediately available Monday for comment.
The impact of lost funds hits low-income women the hardest
Of the 14 New Hampshire family clinics included in the New Hampshire Family Planning Programfive of them are part of the PPNNE network, said PPNNE Vice President of Public Affairs Kayla Montgomery.
The PPNNE locations in New Hampshire, combined with Lovering Health Center and Equality Health Center, see about 12,000 patients a year, which Montgomery says is about 80% of New Hampshire’s entire family planning program. .
“We are trusted providers of affordable, non-judgmental reproductive health care, which is why last week’s vote to withdraw funding was particularly shameful,” she said. “This funding jeopardizes the care of nearly 12,000 patients, and it disproportionately affects low-income and marginalized people who have been hardest hit by the pandemic at a time when the state should be prioritizing health equity to foster healthy communities.”
Dalia Vidunas, executive director of the Equality Health Center, said the impact will mean longer wait times for patients and force the facility to reevaluate its sliding fee scale for low-income or self-employed patients. paying.
The effects of the vote, she said, will take place immediately. “Right now, our rolling fee scale is at 250% of the poverty level, and that’s the safety net for people who don’t qualify for the Medicaid expansion at 137% of the poverty level. but working two jobs, not full time, can’t get health care. These kinds of things are really going to affect our low-income patients.
After last week’s vote, Sununu released a statement saying he brought forward the contracts because he supported them, “as I do every year as governor, because they protect women’s health and it’s the right thing to do. Today’s action to vote against funding like cancer screenings and other health services for women is incredibly disappointing and not something I agree with.”
No matter where they live or their economic status, Sen. Maggie Hassan, D-NH, said all state residents deserve health care and family planning services “that will keep them healthy and to prosper”.
“Frankly, I don’t see how you can argue with that,” she said.
Associated Press material was used in this report.