The New Hampshire House has passed a budget with language “to ensure that public funds are not used to subsidize abortions directly or indirectly”. The proposed budget now goes to the Senate for consideration.
While New Hampshire has long protected taxpayers from most abortion funding (there are exceptions), the new House language calls for complete physical and financial separation of abortion from family planning. This would mean that an entity seeking a contract with the state to provide family planning services – say, Planned Parenthood of Northern New England – would not be eligible unless its abortion business were set up as a separate entity.
Adam Sexton of WMUR quoted Rep. Katherine Rogers (D-Concord) as saying, “This section of the budget is clearly only intended to make it impossible for reproductive health care facilities to participate in the [family planning] program.” In response, Rep. Jess Edwards (R-Auburn) pointed out that the provision means no such thing. “We’re going to fund STD’s [care], we’re going to fund pregnancy tests, we’re going to fund women’s health exams, all of that ‘sky is falling’ stuff is nonsense.”
HB 2, known as the trailer bill, contains specific directions for certain appropriations in HB 1, the main budget bill. 2021’s trailer bill has over 90 provisions. From HB 2, page 13, as passed by the House:
Reproductive Health Facilities. No state funds shall be awarded by the department of health and human services to a reproductive health care facility, as defined in RSA 132:37, I, except the funding available from the state pursuant to Title XIX of the Social Security Act to the minimum extent necessary to comply with federal conditions for the state’s participation in the Medicaid program. In order to ensure that public funds are not used to subsidize abortions directly or indirectly, no funds, grants, or contracts shall be awarded for a family planning project, including but not limited to funding under budget line 902010-5530, unless the state funded family planning program project is physically and financially separate from a reproductive health facility as defined in RSA 132:37, I and no family planning grantee shall enter into any contract with a reproductive health facility.
The budget bills resulted from several months of work by the House Finance Committee. The House vote was mostly along party lines, 205-178, with Republicans in the majority.
Governor Chris Sununu, who describes himself as pro-choice, has always drawn a distinction between funding abortion (which he has not favored) and funding abortion providers (which he has favored repeatedly).
This trailer bill, with provisions addressing numerous budget areas, apparently does not sit well with him, although he has not singled out the abortion-funding provision as a problem. More troublesome in his view are trailer-bill provisions that would weaken the emergency powers he has exercised under COVID conditions.
The Governor will have to wait for Senate action before he does anything with HB 1 and HB 2. Every point in HB 2 is a potential bargaining chip in budget negotiations. It’s up to voters to let elected officials know what’s non-negotiable.
Header image: Ellen Kolb photo/Canva.