Reporters and Editors,
As the third day of the HB2 committee of conference begins, we want to provide an overview of what is currently in the state budget.
Day One: Mandatory, Unnecessary Medical Procedures, Extreme Abortion Ban, Physician Imprisonment
On day one, the House acceded to the Senate’s inclusion of a cruel abortion ban, which adds new restrictions to all abortion through mandatory ultrasounds on every abortion at any stage of pregnancy. This is a direct and egregious attack on medication abortion which is a safe and effective way to end an early pregnancy (up to 77 days, or 11 weeks after the first day of your last period). Nationally, over a third of abortions at 8 weeks gestation or less are medication abortions.
This move defies medical standards and is unnecessary. Politicians shouldn’t be substituting their judgement for medical professionals’ expertise. Routine ultrasounds are not considered medically necessary as a component of first-trimester abortion. According to the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecologists (ACOG), “For patients with regular menstrual cycles, a certain last menstrual period within the prior 56 days, and no signs, symptoms, or risk factors for ectopic pregnancy, a clinical examination or ultrasound examination is not necessary before medication abortion.”
Forcing patients to have an ultrasound is shaming and an unnecessary barrier to care, requiring them to travel to and pay for the additional cost of the procedure. This mandate will disproportionately impact lower income patients who already face the most barriers to accessing health care.
The state budget also bans abortion at 24 weeks gestation, threatens providers with up to 7 years in prison, and includes extremely limited exceptions, including none for fatal fetal anomalies and none for rape or incest. Despite the Governor's claim that this ban is similar to Massachusetts’, New Hampshire’s potential abortion ban is far more extreme; Massachusetts includes an exception for fatal fetal anomalies, has a broader exception for maternal health, and does not mandate ultrasounds prior to all abortions. This ban enforces a one-size-fits-all law for complex, unique circumstances.
This week, nearly 200 New Hampshire health care providers signed on to a letter urging Governor Sununu to veto the state budget because of the inclusion of the ban on abortion, stating: “New Hampshire already struggles to retain medical professionals, and we are deeply concerned that these criminal penalties will undermine our state's efforts to recruit and retain clinicians.”
Day Two: Targeted Regulation of Family Planning Providers
On day two, Senator Bradley introduced an overreaching amendment requiring NH DHHS to perform annual and unnecessary financial audits of all NH Family Planning Program participants. If DHHS is unable to complete the audit, health care providers will lose all future state funding, or be forced to suspend operations, stopping lifesaving care that 12,000 Granite Staters rely on. This is an overreach into health care organizations and state/federal funds already cannot go towards abortion care. Patients seeking an abortion in New Hampshire pay for those services out-of-pocket or through their health insurance carrier. This language holds patients and medical providers hostage pending financial audits.
Last Friday: Underfunding the State Family Planning Program
HB1 drastically underfunds New Hampshire’s Family Planning Program as a whole by not taking into account the loss of federal funds due to the Title X gag rule. The Biden administration is working to reverse this policy, but federal funding will not be restored until spring of 2022 at earliest. An amendment to fully fund the program and an amendment with a lesser dollar amount were both rejected 5-2. The underfunding of the program creates a substantial loss for health centers who participate in the program, including Federally Qualified Health Centers and could equate to interruptions to patient care.
Planned Parenthood of Northern New England (PPNNE) is the largest provider of reproductive and sexual health care for women, men and young people across the State of New Hampshire. We serve New Hampshire residents through 6 health centers in Claremont, Derry, Exeter, Keene, Manchester and White River Junction, VT. In 2020, we saw nearly 11,000 patients at these sites.
Planned Parenthood New Hampshire Action Fund (PPNHAF) is an independent, nonpartisan, not-for-profit organization formed as the advocacy and political arm of Planned Parenthood of Northern New England in New Hampshire. The Action Fund engages in educational and electoral activity, including voter education, grassroots organizing, and legislative advocacy.