CONCORD — Republicans again denied funding for three New Hampshire health clinics on Wednesday over unsubstantiated concerns that public money is paying abortions.
The Executive Council’s 4-1 vote marked the second time the Equality Health Center, love health centerand Northern New England Family Planning have been denied funding under a new state requirement that the state confirm a financial separation between family planning programs and abortion services.
At the time of the first vote in September, audits were incomplete, but all four Republicans on the board still voted no on Wednesday, despite audit reports confirming the funds were not mixed.
“We’ve found that we don’t even pay enough to fund their regular family planning. We don’t subsidize abortion services, and all the paperwork supports that,” Health and Human Services Commissioner Lori Shibinette said. .
Councilor Janet Stevens of Rye, who represents many Seacoast communities, said she was concerned clinics had yet to fix issues identified in audits. But officials said they would meet the Dec. 31 deadline to do so, and none of the corrective actions had anything to do with how the money was spent.
Sandi Denoncour, executive director of the Lovering Health Center in Greenland, said she was frustrated and angry with Stevens, who she said did not respond to repeated efforts to contact her ahead of the vote.
“We would have been happy to share with her what our corrective actions were and our plans to rectify them,” she said. “I don’t believe it’s a genuine request for information to influence that decision. I think it’s a completely political block to distance herself from the decision she made today.”
The contracts, which were backed by Republican Gov. Chris Sununu, would have extended funding the clinics had relied on for years for cancer screenings, sexually transmitted disease tests and other routine health care services. Patricia Tilley, chief of the state’s public health services division, said patients will likely end up forgoing treatment or seeking it at hospitals already overwhelmed by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Kayla Montgomery, vice president of public affairs for Planned Parenthood of Northern New England, called the vote shameful.
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“Once again, four executive advisers have chosen to dismiss public health experts and put their personal politics ahead of the health of our state,” she said. “The rejection of these critical funds harms the delivery of essential health care for low-income and marginalized Granite Staters.”
Councilor Ted Gatsas objected on the grounds that state funding should not go to clinics where 14-year-old girls could get the morning after pill without parental consent. Shibinette noted that parental consent is not required for contraception.
“We hear no objection to a 14-year-old boy buying condoms,” she said.
Councilwoman Cinde Warmington, the only Democrat, agreed.
“This is again an attack on women and control of women,” she said.