Family planning

Family planning contracts for abortion providers rejected along party lines

Executive Advisor Cinde Warmington, D-Concord, discusses Wednesday’s vote. https://youtu.be/KN9_8_BOaIE

By PAULA TRACY, InDepthNH.org

NASHUA – New Hampshire’s Executive Council voted 4-1 on Wednesday to reject family planning contracts with three reproductive health providers across the state who also provide abortion care with separate funding – Planned Parenthood of Northern New England , Lovering Health Center and Equality Health Center.

According to the Planned Parenthood New Hampshire Action Fund, these three providers provide 80% of the services provided under New Hampshire’s family planning program.

Failure to approve these contracts will negatively impact women’s health statewide, unintended and teen birth rates and birth outcomes, according to the health commissioner and to social services, Lori Shibinette.

While Governor Chris Sununu did not discuss the contracts during the meeting, after the vote he issued the following statement: “I presented these contracts because I support them, as I have done every year. as Governor, because they are protecting women’s health and it is 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 I disagree with that.

Concord Executive Councilor Cinde Warmington, the council’s only Democrat and sole supporter of contracts for reproductive health providers, said, “We need to stop playing politics with women’s health care in this state.”

Warmington was the sole supporter of contracts for Planned Parenthood of NH, Equality Health Center of Concord, Joan G. Lovering Health Care Center of Greenland and Amoskeag Health of Manchester.

Republican Councilors Joe Kenney of Wakefield, David Wheeler of Milford, Janet Stevens of Rye and Ted Gatsas of Manchester voted against the contracts.

Gatsas said he did not believe a minor should be given a “morning after” pill – which he mistakenly confused with a medical abortion – without parental consent and for this reason he said that he would vote against the contracts.

Contracts under discussion on Wednesday had been postponed to allow time for the state to conduct financial reviews of candidates; therefore, a portion of the funding was retroactive to cover care provided during this review period. Shibinette said audits showed no family planning program providers used state or federal funds for abortion care, and all were in compliance with state and federal regulations.

Paying for reproductive health services without an abortion is permitted by law, Attorney General John Formella said.

Wheeler said he would not support the contracts because there was no physical separation of services, although that is not required by New Hampshire law.

“You can’t pay a secretary half with one jar of money and half with another jar of money,” Wheeler said.
“These are the rules now and they must be followed.”

Kayla Montgomery, vice president of public affairs for Planned Parenthood of Northern New England and Planned Parenthood New Hampshire Action Fund called the council’s vote “disgraceful.”

“Today, four executive advisers chose to ignore public health experts and put their own opinions ahead of the health and safety of their constituents,” Montgomery said. “Healthy communities and healthy families begin with access to affordable, quality health care, and Planned Parenthood has been a trusted provider in Granite State for nearly 50 years. This funding jeopardizes the care of nearly 12,000 patients and has a disproportionate impact on low-income and marginalized people – who have been hardest hit during the pandemic.

This is not the first time the Executive Council has withheld public funds from reproductive health providers who also offer abortions. In 2011 and 2015, Board members rejected contracts for Planned Parenthood of Northern New England. In 2015, then Councilor Chris Sununu cast the deciding vote.

“Today, Governor Sununu showed no leadership from his party or his council as he sat and watched four Republicans dismantle our state’s reproductive health care infrastructure, jeopardizing the ‘access to care for 12,000 granite staters,’ said Senate Democratic Vice President Cindy. Rosenwald, D-Nashua.

Former state senator Melanie Levesque, a senior adviser to the state Democratic party, criticized Sununu.

“Sununu vigorously campaigned for an anti-reproductive majority on the Executive Council, and now thousands of Granite Staters will lose access to essential health services as a result. From support for Supreme Court Justices from Mitch McConnell to Signing a law banning abortion, Chris Sununu has done more than any other New Hampshire governor to suppress access to reproductive health care Sununu’s attacks on health care are out of step with New Hampshire — and will be a major liability to voters the next time he is on the ballot,” Levesque said in a statement after the meeting.

Additionally, in a 3-2 vote, the board rejected $22.4 million from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to fund the immunization program under the Consolidated Appropriations Act 2021 and create 12 new positions at vaccination purposes. Senate Democratic Deputy Leader Cindy Rosenwald (D-Nashua) released the following statement in response:

“There was no reason to reject this federal funding beyond political showmanship. Especially after yesterday’s reckless anti-vaccination rally hosted by President Packard, it is clearer than ever that New Hampshire Republicans are not interested in protecting Granite Staters, only in protecting dangerous right-wing extremism,” Rosenwald said.

The meeting at St. Joseph’s Academic Center in Nashua was attended by pro-choice protesters outside who outnumbered pro-life protesters by 25-2.