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CONCORD - Today, New Hampshire’s Executive Council voted 4-1 against 24-month contracts with three family planning providers that also provide abortion care - Equality Health Center, Lovering Health Center, and Planned Parenthood of Northern New England (#41C).

This vote comes quickly on the heels of the Council’s September 4-1 vote to defund the health centers through December 31, 2021, a six-month contract period.

After the vote, Equality Health Center, Lovering Health Center, and PPNNE released the following statements:

“Today’s shameful Executive Council vote jeopardizes access to family planning care for 12,000 Granite Staters who rely on Equality Health Center, Lovering Health Center, and Planned Parenthood of Northern New England,” said Dalia Vidunas, Executive Director of Equality Health Center. “A second defund this year compounds the difficulty we were already facing to keep our doors open. Unfortunately, patients will be impacted as we are forced to remove our sliding scale fee for some services.”

Sandi Denoncour, Executive Director of Lovering Health Center added, “As state public health officials have stated repeatedly, the failure to approve these contracts jeopardizes family planning network, endangers the health and wellbeing of New Hampshire citizens, and threatens New Hampshire’s strong maternal health outcomes, including the lowest unintended pregnancies and teen pregnancy rates in the country. Our patients and the people of New Hampshire will suffer because the Executive Council continues to put politics before public health.”

“The Executive Council had an opportunity to fix their mistake today and fully fund family planning services; unfortunately, they have once again failed Granite Staters,” stated Kayla Montgomery, Vice President for Public Affairs at Planned Parenthood of Northern New England. “The rejection of these critical funds harm the delivery of essential health care for lower-income and marginalized people. There were no unanswered questions. Councilors Kenney, Stevens, Gatsas, and Wheeler once again made the choice to negatively contribute to the public health landscape during a COVID surge when hospitals are at capacity. We thank Councilor Warmington for her steadfast support for all family planning providers.”

BACKGROUND:

The 24-Month Family Planning Contracts:

  • Agenda #41C - a total of $2,055,498 in Family Planning Program funding that helps pay for programs such as the sliding scale fee for patients seeking birth control, STD testing and treatment, and cancer screenings. This funding has historically been a part of the state of New Hampshire’s obligation in supporting better public health outcomes for lower income individuals. : 

    • A total of $1,020,329 in contracts were rejected for the three reproductive health providers:

      • Equality Health Center (Concord) - $558,395

      • Lovering Health Center (Greenland) - $336,934

      • Planned Parenthood of Northern New England (Claremont, Manchester, Keene, Derry, and Exeter) - $125,000

Trump’s Gag Rule:

  • The splitting of these contracts was because the Trump Administration had previously gagged federal funds. The Biden administration has officially unwound the gag rule.

  • Most New Hampshire family planning providers have not received federal Title X family planning funds since 2019 due to the Trump administration’s gag rule. The Biden administration and New Hampshire’s federal delegation have worked to reverse this policy, but federal funding will not return to the states until spring of 2022 at the earliest. 

  • The FY 20-21 state budget contained backfill funding to mitigate the impact of President Trump’s harmful Title X gag rule, but New Hampshire budget writers rejected efforts to add backfill funds into the current state budget. 

  • There is no provision in HB2 that requires physical separation of abortion services in order to receive Family Planning funding. The language is clear: here is Senator Bradley's introduction and explanation (video begins when he begins) of this new provision, which he introduced in this amendment) in the Committee of Conference. In the video, Senator Bradley says that this a moment of “trust, but verify” that commingling of funds is not happening and that he intended for funds to continue to go to reproductive health facilities, without delay. Prior to his amendment, Rep. Jess Edwards introduced an amendment that would have required physical and financial separation in order to receive state funds. However, Rep. Edwards’s amendment was not adopted.

  • In September, the New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services confirmed what family planning providers have been saying all along: that no New Hampshire family planning dollars go toward abortion care. DHHS stated unequivocally, multiple times, that the financial reviews, which took place over the course of the summer, clearly showed that no Family Planning funds have been used for abortion.

NH Family Planning Program Impact:

  • New Hampshire has the lowest unintended pregnancies and teen pregnancy rates in the country and some of the best maternal health outcomes; the New Hampshire Family Planning Program is part of the network of care that supports these positive measures.

  • During an October Executive Council discussion over family planning funding, Councilor Cinde Warmington and DHHS Commissioner Shibinette highlighted the fragility of New Hampshire’s positive maternal/fetal health outcomes and the impact the defund votes could have. Full transcript here.

Planned Parenthood of Northern New England Care Delivery:

  • In 2020, nearly 10,000 Granite Staters relied on PPNNE’s five health centers for high-quality, affordable health care. 

  • In November, PPNNE was named a 2021 Guardian of Excellence Award® winner by Press Ganey, the national leader in health care consumer and workforce engagement. Press Ganey recognizes PPNNE as a top-performing health care organization, achieving the 95th percentile or above for performance in patient experience, out of more than 20,000 medical practices. 

Previous PPNNE Contract Votes:

  • Three times in recent years (2011 and 2015 and 2021), the care provided at local Planned Parenthood health centers was jeopardized when contracts were blocked by the Executive Council and state funding was interrupted. 

  • Then Councilor Chris Sununu was the deciding vote to defund PPNNE in 2015. 

  • Contracts were consistently approved between June of 2016 and September of 2021, with bipartisan support.

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