Testimony Opposing Anti-Reproductive Health Care Budget
For Immediate Release: May 5, 2021
Rep. Joshua Query, PPNNE patient:
My name is Rep. Joshua Query, I represent Hillsborough district 16, Manchester’s ward 9, and I am here to oppose HB2 because as a Planned Parenthood patient, I know firsthand how important the care that they provide to individuals is. I also know how vital the care they provide for patients regardless of income and access.
Last April, at the height of the pandemic, I was unknowingly exposed to the HIV virus. It wasn’t until later in May that I found out. I was underinsured, unemployed, and at this point in the pandemic, we had no idea how much longer it would rage on. In the meantime, though, so many health care providers were closed because of COVID-19. I knew I needed to see a doctor quickly.
I had never been inside a Planned Parenthood before, but I knew they offered STI testing. I called the Manchester health center and they scheduled me for a telehealth appointment. Their assessment over the phone would determine whether I would need to visit the health center in person. Honestly, having the first part of my appointment over the phone gave me a bit more anonymity in the moment, and let me share what happened in a way that made me feel more comfortable.
In our conversation, the provider confirmed that I needed to go in because I was at risk of being HIV positive. I went into the health center to receive an instant HIV test, which can tell you if you’ve been exposed to the HIV virus. I learned immediately that I had enough of the viral load in my bloodstream to indicate I had been exposed.
They sent full blood work to their labs for testing to see if I was HIV positive, or to see if I had enough of the viral load in my system but was not yet positive. They immediately had me begin PEP, or Post Exposure Prophylaxis. This is a series of pills that you start taking after you’ve been exposed to HIV, which lowers your chances of getting it.
PEP costs over $12,000 for a thirty day supply. $12,000.
Being underinsured, I didn’t have $12,000 to pay out of pocket for one month - and truly, I don’t know how many people can possibly afford that. But Planned Parenthood worked with me. They knew my financial situation, they knew that I would not be able to pay for this critical medication. My providers at Planned Parenthood were able to connect me with the drug manufacturer, provide them with the necessary documentation, and work with the manufacturer on my behalf to make sure I qualified for the reduced costs: Because of them, I was able to start PEP at no cost.
I was on PEP for 90 days, which would have cost me almost $40,000. For those ninety days, I was tested monthly at Planned Parenthood. After my third, and final, HIV test, to confirm that I was HIV negative -- and not a false negative -- I then switched over to PREP – pre exposure prophylaxis. Because I am at greater risk, I switched over to PREP to prevent HIV in case of a future exposure.
The cost of my PREP medication without prescription insurance is about $3,000 for thirty days. Again, Planned Parenthood worked with me in a similar way, and I was able to start PREP at no cost for the medication to myself until I was able to be fully insured at the start of 2021.
I still go to the health centers every ninety days to maintain that I am HIV negative, and that the PREP is working and not having any side effects on my body. Throughout this entire process, with all of these visits to make sure that I remain healthy, the health center charged me based on my income, instead of a flat rate, which I might not have been able to afford when I was between jobs.
If Planned Parenthood hadn’t been able to help me with that first round of medication, I could say, almost with certainty, that I would be HIV positive.
Planned Parenthood saved my life.
My story may feel unique. But I represent so many people in our state who have lost insurance coverage or are underinsured. I represent people who face astronomical medical costs, who then need to decide if the debt or the disease is the harder battle to face. I represent people who rely on community health centers and Planned Parenthood and other providers who offer care based on patients’ circumstances for our preventative health care.
And you represent constituents like me, all over the state.
I urge you to amend HB2 to remove the language about physical and financial separation requirements on reproductive health facilities to ensure trusted providers like Planned Parenthood can continue providing critical and life saving care to Granite Staters like me.
Thank you for your time.
Crystal, PPNNE patient
My name is Crystal Paradis and I'm writing to ask this committee to amend HB1 to include 9-month backfill funding for family planning.
Several years ago, I began experiencing what was later diagnosed as menorrhagia — a condition affects over 10 Million women in the US alone. For me, it meant every month, I would experience days or even weeks of severe discomfort, heavy bleeding, migraines, anemia, nausea, inability to stand or even sit up. Often this meant a few days a month where I was totally unable to work or do any usual tasks. It was severely affecting my quality of life, and it was getting worse each month.
I was uninsured and had spent months attempting unsuccessfully scheduling an appointment with a doctor. I had turned to Planned Parenthood over a decade earlier, in my early twenties, for basic birth control, but it hadn't occurred to me to go to them until a friend who’d experienced similar symptoms recommended that I reach out to them for help.
I was able to very easily book an appointment online to see them the very next morning. That alone was a huge relief, but receiving care I needed was truly life-changing. The doctor told me I shouldn’t have to live with the level of pain I was experiencing, and we discussed various options. I left that day with hormonal birth control pills, which cause near-immediate relief. A few weeks later, I went back for an IUD insertion.
That was 18 months ago, and I was, fortunately I'd say, someone for whom a hormonal IUD stopped my periods altogether — and the debilitating symptoms along with them. For those who don’t know, an IUD lasts about 10 years. Since I was uninsured and low-income, it was 100% covered by family planning funding.
This access to timely, compassionate care has changed my life. I’ve been able to get through COVID-related employment shifts — not to mention stress around getting basic supplies, especially through the first few months of the pandemic — all without having to deal with a painful and costly condition that was getting worse the longer it went untreated.
You’ve heard about the potential gap in Title X funding for family planning services here in NH. We know that state revenues are actually up this year, so cutting this critical gap funding would be unnecessarily cruel as we recover from the biggest health crisis in generations.
My story is one of roughly 15,000 Granite Staters each year who need services from Planned Parenthood funded by Title X funding — please amend HB1 to include funding for this 9-month gap for family planning.
Morgan W, former PPNNE patient:
"Good evening Chairman Daniels and the members of the Senate Finance Committee
Thank you for your time tonight. My name is Morgan, and I am a resident of -- speaking in opposition to HB 2. The House budget defunds Planned Parenthood of Northern New England and independent abortion providers. To be clear, this language defunds essential health care providers during a pandemic. As a former patient of Planned Parenthood, I know firsthand the importance of the reproductive health services they offer.
The quality of care I’ve received at Planned Parenthood is above and beyond my standard experience at other health care facilities. When I made an appointment to get the Nexplanon birth control implant at my local Planned Parenthood, I was incredibly nervous. It involves the insertion of a small rod into the skin of the upper arm, and I was terrified of how much it might hurt. I knew the importance of taking care of my reproductive health and being on some form of birth control, but I was still so nervous.
The health center staff made me feel welcome throughout my appointment. The doctor seemed to be able to tell how nervous I was and took great care in gently explaining what she was going to do and how it might feel. I deeply appreciated her patience and understanding and left that appointment with the knowledge that I could always turn to Planned Parenthood for understanding, compassionate care.
The staff was kind, respectful, and provided the patient-centered care I needed at the time. Every experience I’ve had at Planned Parenthood has demonstrated how considerate the staff is. They treat their patients like people and care about not just their physical health but their mental and emotional needs as well. They offer high-quality care while making it affordable for those who are uninsured or underinsured and always take the patient’s multifaceted needs into consideration. Many people I know are only able to access vitally important reproductive health care through Planned Parenthood’s affordable and compassionate services. People like me who might generally avoid health-related appointments because of the accompanying anxiety can go to Planned Parenthood and know that our apprehensions will be understood and cared for.
This program is greatly needed for people like myself all across the state.This budget will cause significant harm to public health in New Hampshire and reduce the access New Hampshire residents have to affordable healthcare services. I strongly urge you to oppose the language in the budget that defunds Planned Parenthood and other reproductive health care providers. Thank you so much for the opportunity to share my story about an issue that I deeply care about as a resident of New Hampshire."
Leah Q, former PPNNE patient:
"Good evening Senators,
Thank you for your time. My name is Leah, and I am a resident of --. As a former patient of Planned Parenthood, I am speaking in opposition to HB 2. The current budget dangerously adds separation requirements that could create enormous burdens on health centers to force providers out of the Family Planning program. I’m here to share the difference having access to family planning services has made in my life.
Planned Parenthood has been there for me when I needed them through many stages of my life. There were times in my past when I did not have health insurance and needed birth control to enable me to not only make choices about my body but also to control very painful menstrual cycles. Planned Parenthood was able to provide me affordable birth control in a friendly and empathetic way. I was able to receive regular reproductive healthcare checks and compassionate care when I had an abnormal pap smear that required a colposcopy. I was frightened at the potential for a cancer diagnosis and all of the health center workers were so kind and helpful. When I was ready for a child, Planned Parenthood provided the confirmation that I was pregnant and the next steps I needed to know to have a healthy pregnancy. I went to Planned Parenthood because I trusted them to listen and support me. Today I have a healthy 3 year old daughter, and I’m forever grateful for the support I have received at Planned Parenthood.
Blocking funding for Planned Parenthood and abortion providers could result in patients facing interruptions to necessary care. By amending HB 2 to remove these unnecessary restrictions, you will make it possible for more people like myself to receive the care, such as important cancer screenings, and services that they need.
Thank you so much for your time in hearing my testimony."
James C, PPNNE patient
"As a current patient of Planned Parenthood, I urge the Senate Finance Committee to amend HB1 to include 9-month backfill funding for Family Planning and amend HB2 to remove the requirement for physical and financial separation of services. I am writing to share the difference this organization has made in my life.
I’m grateful for the compassionate, quality, affordable care that my local Planned Parenthood of Northern New England health center is able to offer me. I started T with Planned Parenthood on a recommendation from my therapist. I use patches, and they worked with me when I was unsure about injections. They made sure I felt safe and informed. Planned Parenthood provides reliable and compassionate health care to people of all gender identities and sexual orientations. Being able to receive trans care has changed my life.
As a trans man, it can be challenging to get gender affirming care. I’m grateful that it is even an option for me. I know that only a few years ago, my options in New Hampshire would have been limited to just one health center. PPNNE’s expansion of gender affirming care to every health center in New Hampshire has made it easier for me to receive the care I need. I am 100% comfortable and confident using Planned Parenthood services when needed.
The providers and staff that are respectful and kind. The non-judgmental care that PPNNE offers, and its affordability, take some of the pressures off navigating the otherwise complex health care industry. I’m grateful for the care that is provided to me and hope that this care will continue to serve others like me. It is completely unacceptable there are significant cuts to accessing preventive health care, and during a pandemic. Please avoid a public health disaster for the state of New Hampshire and oppose HB 1 and HB 2 as is, and provide backfill funding for reproductive health centers."
Ilyssa S, former PPNNE patient:
Good evening. My name is Ilyssa. Thank you so much for giving your time this evening to hear my testimony. As a former patient of Planned Parenthood and current sexual and reproductive health nurse at the Lovering Health Center, I strongly oppose HB 2. This budget makes it impossible for reproductive health centers to be a part of the New Hampshire Family Planning Program because of unnecessary requirements designed to defund abortion care providers. This language is clearly only intended to make it impossible for reproductive health centers to participate in the Family Planning Program, even though 79% of patients in the program are cared for at reproductive health centers. I have been one of those patients.
In 2016, I was running for political office, planning a wedding, and struggling with managing a chronic reproductive illness. To further complicate things, my father unexpectedly passed away at only 52-years-old 2 months before my wedding. As you can imagine, it completely turned my world upside-down. To make matters even worse, I had just turned 26 and was relying on my father for health insurance until my wedding. When he passed away, my only option was to go on COBRA; however, there was a waiting period so I had to go without insurance for about two weeks.
During this time, I had a flare up with my endometriosis, which had been formally diagnosed in 2014. I had been seeing a specialist to manage my condition during this time, but I could not afford to see her without insurance.
I was in pain (both physically and emotionally) and extremely uncomfortable…..so I made an appointment at my local Planned Parenthood health center. Planned Parenthood completely surmounted any care I had been given in the past. The staff was kind, respectful, and provided the patient-centered care I needed at the time. The provider listened to me, she offered to help me find grief counseling, and she provided me timely, effective care to help me through an exacerbation in my illness. In a time in my life when I felt so incredibly broken, the staff at Planned Parenthood helped me start the process of picking up the pieces.
Now fast forward to 4 years later. In 2020, I accepted the position of Reproductive and Sexual Health Nurse at Lovering Health Center with the goal of giving back to my community. Now I can speak as a patient and as a caregiver to this population. I cannot express to you enough how harmful this bill will be to my patients. I could spend days talking about this, and I would if this were an option. My job as a nurse is not only to give unbiased, safe, quality care to my patients, it’s to advocate for them both at the bedside and on a larger macro level. My patients DESERVE to be heard. My patients DESERVE access to preventative care. Patients have been coming to Lovering for over 40 years. Every single day I provide the essential care to our community. The very care that is trying to be stripped away. Provision 3 of the Code of Ethics for Nurses from the ANA states “the nurse promotes, advocates for, and protects the rights, and safety of the patient.” Furthermore, it affirms reproductive healthcare as a universal right. As a registered nurse, I am asking you: please don’t take their care away - especially during a time when accessibility is already an incredibly large barrier.
To conclude, reproductive health services are so greatly needed for people all across New Hampshire. I can speak for this as a patient and as a provider of care. It is completely unacceptable that this budget prioritizes slashing access to preventive health care, especially in the midst of a pandemic. If finalized, this budget will cause an undue physical and psychological burden on people all across NH and will also result in a public health disaster for this state.
Thank you so much for the opportunity to share my story. I wholeheartedly urge you to oppose HB 2.
Benji G, PPNNE patient
"Thank you so much for the opportunity to share my story and for taking the time to read my letter. I strongly urge you to amend HB1 to include 9-month backfill funding for Family Planning and amend HB2 to remove the requirement for physical and financial separation of services. As a patient of Planned Parenthood, I am writing to share the difference this organization has made in my life.
My name is Benji, I’m from -- NH, and I began seeing Planned Parenthood in early 2020 for medical transition purposes. Prior to initially seeing Planned Parenthood, I had looked for resources online and locally for transitioning medically, and had asked other trans people about their experiences. Unfortunately, because of the financial and insurance barriers of most trans-medicine services, as well as the covid-19 pandemic causing businesses to close down, none of the resources I had found at the time were able to provide me with the level of care that I had felt I needed.
That’s when I found Planned Parenthood in Derry, NH and began seeing them regularly for my hormone replacement therapy and blood work, and they also helped me by providing me with information about other resources I might need that are local and online. The people that helped me were open to questions, they were honest about what they did and didn’t know, and they never made any decision regarding my care without consulting and informing me first.
Since Planned Parenthood is the only accessible, reliable, and readily available medical service and information resource for Transgender people and so many others in our state, then they need the support of the family planning program. Without this funding there would not be a place where the people in need have access to reliable, safe, and consistent information and care."
Annie J, PPNNE patient
"If this budget were to become law, thousands of Granite Staters like me would be at risk of losing access to critical, lifesaving health care. This isn't a talking point or hyperbole. For thousands of people, underinsured or uninsured, which is in my experience the default situation of the bottom third of the New Hampshire population by income earned, there are no other viable options waiting in the wings to step in and take up this mantle. The average hospital ER, in a pandemic, can not take on the task of providing these thousands of people with routine testing, checkups, and providing birth control and free contraception. Those people will either take on astronomical medical bills, or more likely, they'll go without care. And if supporters of this “separation language” say that they will somehow save the taxpayer money, they are significantly misleading their constituents. We know that preventative healthcare saves taxpayer dollars at a rate of $1 spent for $7 saved.
At the end of the day, the politicians pushing this budget don't care about our health or our needs. They want to drive a false narrative about reproductive health care, and New Hampshire patients like me appear to be the sacrifice. We seem to be living in a time where facts are secondary to the narrative of propaganda, but here are the facts: Planned Parenthood serves a huge community, literally 72% of the entire Family Planning Program, and their services throughout New Hampshire ensure that anyone -- ANYONE -- can access birth control, cancer screenings, and STI testing.
We should all be able to agree that funding these types of preventative services is good for the health of our communities and the overall economy. The only way to disagree with that statement is to make another: that preventative and reproductive healthcare is a rarified privilege reserved for those rich enough to be well insured or pay out of pocket, and only they deserve healthcare. But that’s not what our state should stand for, and the budget needs to reflect our values.
It’s even more alarming that the House has chosen to defund reproductive health care providers in a pandemic when many people have foregone routine care. We should be working on expanding access to these services, not stripping them away. I urge you to amend HB2 to take out the ridiculous physical and financial separation requirements on reproductive health care providers."
Abi C, PPNNE Patient
"As a current patient of Planned Parenthood, I am writing to share the difference this organization has made in my life and express my strong support for their grant request to the Alexander Eastman Foundation.
When I first decided to go to Planned Parenthood for care, I was so scared. My chest felt tight, I could not control my breathing, and I did not know what to expect because of the public stigma. I did not have insurance, but I had made the choice after a thorough conversation with my boyfriend that if we were going to be responsible sexually active people, I needed to start using birth control, and the only way I could afford to do that is by going to Planned Parenthood.
At the time, I did not know anything about Planned Parenthood. I did not even know that there was one less than five minutes away from my house. But, with my heart racing, I called and made an appointment. When I walked into the center, I timidly approached the front desk to say that I had an appointment. The person gave me a smile, surely knew that I was filled with anxiety, and helped me fill out the paperwork. I noticed that the tag on the person’s scrubs said “he/him”. I commented that I appreciated that they have pronouns on their nametags, and he offered me a “she/her” button. That small gesture made me instantly comfortable. The anxiety washed away, and I felt welcome in the health center.
The health center staff made me feel welcome throughout my appointment. I did not know much about different methods of birth control, but the people that I met with during the appointment helped me learn more about my options and helped me decide which was the best for me. They also helped me apply for health coverage through the New Hampshire Family Planning Program. When I came to pick up my pills every three months, I was always greeted with a friendly smile that made my day. Experiencing the compassionate care of Planned Parenthood for myself erased all stigma for me.
I know that I can rely on Planned Parenthood for affordable reproductive care from staff who have my best interest at heart. Without Planned Parenthood, I honestly do not know how I would be able to access simple tests such as UTI testing. There are many other people in the Derry area in my same position—uninsured or underinsured—without Planned Parenthood we would go without essential care, just because it is too expensive.
By supporting Planned Parenthood’s Derry Health Center, your grant will make it possible for more people to receive this life-changing care.
Thank you for your time and consideration."