Executive Council again poised to consider family planning funds at Nov. 29 meeting

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CONCORD, NH – The NH Executive Council, which has refused since 2021 to fund the state’s three largest reproductive health providers, will revisit the issue Nov. 29 at its scheduled 10 a.m. meeting. [Click here to see the full meeting agenda.]

“The purpose of this request is to provide family planning clinical services, STD and HIV counseling and testing, and health education materials to low-income individuals in need of reproductive and sexual health care services,” Lori A. Weaver, commissioner of the state Department of Health and Human Services, said in a Nov. 7 letter to Gov. Chris Sununu and the Executive Council.

The letter was in support of funding for Planned Parenthood of Northern New England, which has multiple clinics in the state, including one in Keene.

The other two organizations are Equality Health Center in Concord and Lovering Health Center in Greenland.

Executive Councilor Cinde Warmington, a Concord Democrat and gubernatorial candidate whose district takes in much of the Monadnock Region, has supported such requests. But the other four councilors, all Republicans, have rejected them because these organizations also provide abortions.

Warmington said in an interview Friday that public health suffers when the state doesn’t fund these providers. Sexually transmitted infections are a particular concern, she said, noting that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released data this month showing that across the nation, more than 3,700 babies were born with syphilis in 2022.

This was more than 10 times the number in 2012. The agency reported that the increase in syphilis among newborns follows rising syphilis cases among women of reproductive age combined with social and economic factors that create barriers to high-quality care and prevention services.

“It really would be tragic to see babies born with congenital syphilis, completely unnecessary, because this Executive Council failed to fund family planning services in our state,” she said.

In opposition to the funding have been Councilors David Wheeler, a Milford resident who represents many area towns, along with Theodore Gatsas of Manchester, Janet Stevens of Rye and Joseph Kenney of Union.

The last rejection of funding came at an Executive Council meeting in July 2022.

Kenney said after the meeting that even though the money that would have been provided in the contracts is barred by law from going toward abortions, he was concerned about the “co-mingling of funds.”

He also said he fears state funding could free up money for an organization so that it has more resources to provide abortions.

“I’ve always run as a pro-life Republican, and nothing has really changed in my mind,” he said.

The rejections came despite assurances from state health officials that the family planning money would not be used for abortions. State and federal law prohibit government money from being spent on abortions. State auditors say this money has not been spent on the procedure in the past.

Warmington said the question of whether to fund family planning services should not be a political one.

“These services have been funded in our state for decades under Democratic and Republican councils. It is really just abhorrent that this council is taking its own anti-abortion ideology and using it to defund essential health care services in our state.”

Councilors Wheeler, Gatsas and Stevens didn’t return calls for comment on Friday.

In her letter, Weaver asks for authorization to enter into an 18-month, $773,474 contract with Planned Parenthood of Northern New England. She said this would provide care to nearly 3,900 people.

“Family planning services reduce the health and economic disparities associated with lack of access to high quality, affordable health care,” she said.

“Individuals with lower levels of education and income, uninsured, underinsured, individuals of color, and other minority individuals are less likely to have access to quality family planning services.”

Weaver said a rejection of this contract would be a blow to public health.

“Should the Governor and Council not authorize this request, the sustainability of New Hampshire’s reproductive health care system will be negatively impacted and [this] could remove the safety net of services that improves birth outcomes, prevents unplanned pregnancy and reduces health disparities, which could increase the cost of health care for New Hampshire citizens.”

In a news release, Planned Parenthood of Northern New England said the Executive Council’s four previous rejections of funding reduced support for the three family planning organizations by nearly $1.5 million.

Such funding helps pay for services such as birth control, cancer screenings, as well as testing and treatment for sexually transmitted infections, said Kayla Montgomery, spokeswoman for Planned Parenthood of Northern New England. She added that the lack of this financial support contributed to the closing of the PPNNE health center in Claremont, reduced the number of available appointments and led to appointment delays of three to five weeks at some locations.

The Council’s public meeting Wednesday starts at 10 a.m. in the State House in Concord.

Rick Green can be reached at rgreen@keenesentinel.com or 603-355-8567.


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About this Author

Rick Green

Rick Green is a former Associated Press news editor, local editor for The Oklahoman and reporter/editor for The Laconia Daily Sun.