Abortion providers are once again disappointed in the Executive Council

Today, the New Hampshire Executive Council voted 4-1 to reject family planning contracts with three abortion providers, while approving on 3-2 votes similar contracts with agencies that do not perform abortions. The Council gave thumbs down to the same abortion providers in September, on the same contract proposals.

The 4-1 vote was along party lines, with Republicans Joe Kenney, Janet Stevens, Ted Gatsas, and Dave Wheeler prevailing over Democrat Cinde Warmington. On the 3-2 votes, Councilors Gatsas and Wheeler were in the minority, according to The New Hampshire Union Leader.

A majority of the councilors saying no to the abortion providers aren’t doing so because they have a problem with family planning programs. Their issue is with the abortion side of the providers’ business. They know that giving x number of dollars to an agency for a specific task frees up other agency resources for other tasks.

“Shameful,” says the VP of public policy for Planned Parenthood of Northern New England. “We are outraged,” tweeted the NH Women’s Forum.

The Council’s vote appears to be consistent with state law, as passed in the trailer bill to the state budget that went into effect on July 1 (HB 2, chaptered final version, section 91:36; see subsections 3 and 4):

Any contract awarded to a family planning project shall contain all of the following provisions: (1) that no state funds shall be used to subsidize abortions, either directly or indirectly; (2) that the family planning project will permit the commissioner of the department of health and human services, or his or her designated agent or delegate, to inspect the financial records of the family planning project to monitor compliance with this section; (3) that at the end of each fiscal year, the commissioner shall certify, in writing, to the governor and council that he or she, personally or through a designated agent or delegate, has reviewed the expenditure of funds awarded to a family planning project under this section and that no state funds awarded by the department have been used to provide abortion services; and (4) that if the commissioner fails to make such certification or if the governor and executive council, based on evidence presented by the commissioner in his or her certification, find that state funds awarded by the department have been used to provide abortion services, the grant recipient shall either: (a) be found to be in breach of the terms of such contract, grant, or award of funds and forfeit all right to receive further funding; or (b) suspend all operations until such time as the state funded family planning project is physically and financially separate from any reproductive health facility, as defined in RSA 132:37.

Chapter 91:36, HB 2 as enacted by New Hampshire Legislature and signed into law by Gov. Chris Sununu, 2021

The PPNNE spokesperson has averred that there are no unanswered questions about how PP spends taxpayer money.

According to Kevin Landrigan’s Union Leader report, Governor Sununu expressed hope that the Council will reconsider once the statutorily-required audits are complete. Landrigan quoted the governor as saying “The fight isn’t over yet,” to which Councilor Kenney reportedly replied, “I believe it is.”

In advance of the vote, the Public Policy office of the Diocese of Manchester in an email had urged readers to contact their Councilors to urge a “no” vote on contracts with abortion providers PPNNE, the Equality Center in Concord, and Lovering Health. “Keeping state funds separate from abortion activities is an important public policy-– a policy that is especially appropriate in the context presented by these particular contracts, because abortion unquestionably should not be thought of simply as an element of family planning.” 

New Hampshire Right to Life also issued a public heads-up before today’s Council meeting. “Soon after the Executive Council members decided to uphold the law in mid-September, the NH abortion providers announced increased prices for family planning services on their poorest clientele…. The abortionists thought they could bully NH taxpayers into subsidizing their abortions by increasing prices for other services….As a public service, NHRTL responded to the price increases at abortion facilities for their low-income clients by publishing an interactive map with a list of health care centers and other helpful organizations for women and their families.”

If you’d like to send your councilor a polite message about the votes, here’s contact information.

Exec Council to vote on contracts with PP etc.: 2021 edition

Family planning contracts are back before the New Hampshire Executive Council. Several of the contractors are abortion providers, although the contracts in question are not for abortion “services.” Planned Parenthood of Northern New England, the Equality Center, and the Joan G. Lovering Center are up for contract renewal.

You can find contract details on the Executive Council website. Click on the hyperlinked item 9j on the agenda for the 9/15/21 Council meeting.

Agenda for 9/15/21 Council meeting (see item 9j)

The recently-passed state budget has some specific language about contracts with abortion providers. See pages 13 and 14 of HB 2, signed into law earlier this year. A couple of highlights: no family planning funds may be used for abortion, directly or indirectly (emphasis added); and the state may inspect contractors’ records to ensure compliance. At this point, there hasn’t been time for any such audit.

If you wish to register your opinion on these contracts or contractors, contact information for Councilors is available on the Council’s website. On the same page, you can click on each District number to see a list of the District’s towns.

If you wish to attend the Council meeting, note that it will not be held at the State House this time. District Five Councilor Dave Wheeler is hosting the September 15 meeting at St. Joseph’s Academic Center in Nashua, 5 Woodward Ave., next to St. Joseph Hospital. The meeting will begin at 10:00 a.m.

Follow the money: family planning in the state budget proposal

A reader has kindly alerted me to the “family planning” line item in the proposed New Hampshire budget, due for a vote in the House tomorrow, April 5.

A bit of background: some of the family planning contractors in our state are abortion providers, who come to the Executive Council threatening denial of services to patients if the Council doesn’t hand over the money. Those providers keep saying that family planning money – specifically Title X money, awarded to states by the federal government – can’t be used for abortions. The same providers then press members of Congress to repeal the Hyde Amendment, which is all that stands between Title X and abortion.

As New Hampshire HHS Commissioner Meyers told the Executive Council in 2016,  family planning grants help pay for abortion providers’ “infrastructure,” also known as overhead costs.

Numbers Get Larger

According to the Office of Legislative Budget Assistant, New Hampshire state budget family planning allocations (“contracts for program services”) grew from about a million bucks in FY 2016 to a projected $1.5 million in FY 2019, or to $1.8 million if the House Finance Committee’s request goes through. That’s quite an increase.

Some of the money comes from the state’s general fund. The gold mine, however, is in Washington, D.C. from where federal grants, including but not limited to Title X, flow to Concord for use in specific programs. Those are tax dollars, just like the money from the state general fund. In FY 2016, federal family planning money for New Hampshire came to around $700,000.  For FY 2019, the governor expects $1.1 million while House Finance expects $1.4 million.

How many other New Hampshire health and human services needs are getting that kind of boost in this budget?

Looking ahead

I’ve emailed the federal HHS department in the hope that someone there can show me data to support those projected federal numbers for FYs 2018 and 2019. The reader who suggested I take a look at the family planning budget tried that already and got an unsatisfactory answer. I’m not going to bet on getting an answer before the state budget is passed and signed.

At any rate, we’re getting a preview of Executive Council meetings yet to come. Whatever amount is approved for family planning in the next biennium, the “contracts for program services” will go through the Council. The usual contractors, including abortion providers, will be there for a piece of the ever-growing pie.

A good vote in D.C. (opposed by both N.H. Senators)

Vice-President Pence broke a tie in the U.S. Senate yesterday. What passed, thanks to him and 50 Senators, was effectively a repeal of an Obama policy penalizing states that refuse to do business with abortion providers. H.J. Res. 43 is the name of the repeal resolution.

Senators Shaheen and Hassan of New Hampshire were perfectly happy with the Obama policy and they voted against the repeal.

The former president signed his policy on his way out the door, almost literally: it went into effect two days before he left office. Marjorie Dannenfelser of the Susan B. Anthony list has called it his parting gift to Planned Parenthood. Last month the House, led by Rep. Diane Black, voted to repeal Obama’s policy. The Senate effort was led by Sen. Joni Ernst.

I hope that by the time you read this, President Trump’s approval will have made repeal a done deal.

What repeal does NOT do: change the amount of any appropriation for family planning under Title X. Repeat: zero effect on the amount of money the federal government allocates to states for family planning programs (which, to hear some folks talk, is all there is to women’s health).

What repeal WILL do: allow states to decide for themselves, without any federal penalty, whether to grant Title X family planning contracts to agencies that perform abortions.

That’s it.

Planned Parenthood hates the repeal resolution. Their respect for women apparently ends when a woman decides to resist the abortion providers reaching into her wallet.

I’m one such woman. I know that abortion isn’t health care. And I’m not alone.

PP funding in NH: another end run?

An astute reader left a comment on my last post.

“…are we sure the Executive Council is going to be the decision making body about who gets the NH contract? Didn’t Planned Parenthood orchestrate a by-pass on the NH Executive Council vote against their NH contract during the construction of the previous NH budget?”

State House, Concord NH
From here …

visitthecapitol.gov photo
…to here? (visitthecapitol.gov photo)

 

 

No, we’re not sure. And yes, PPNNE did an end run around a state family planning contract rejection in 2011 by somehow procuring funds directly from the federal government. Regarding that nimble move, the New Hampshire Commissioner of Health and Human Services remarked in 2013, “It’s not appropriate for me to know what they did.”

All we know about the current situation is that the New Hampshire Executive Council has no PP item on its agenda for next Wednesday’s meeting, and that the last PP contract approved by the Council was set to expire eighteen days ago. (What’s more, PPNNE isn’t complaining that “women are being denied health care.”) Late items may be added to the agenda, as the Council’s agenda page indicates. Anything about a future contract or grant is speculative at this point. But if we can’t see into the future, we can certainly look at the past.

Planned Parenthood affiliates nationwide are feeling the heat from the video of a PP medical director chatting about procurement of intact fetal organs. PP’s public funding is under a spotlight, for now. Public dollars are not used for abortion, we’re told. Instead, tax money for “family planning” frees up other PP resources to use for abortions, and the harvesting of fetal organs, and salaries of medical personnel willing to consider changing an abortion method not for the health of the woman but for the better extraction of a child’s organs.

But a state contract or federal grant to PP doesn’t mean I’m paying for abortion itself – just so we’re clear on that. Whew.

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As long as we’re seeking clarity, note this: New Hampshire Right to Life has been fighting for years to get information about how a federal grant materialized for PPNNE after three out of five Executive Councilors said “no” to PP’s Title X contract in 2011. (The Council the same day approved contracts with ten other providers, putting a crimp in attempts to cast Councilors as anti-woman.) In April of this year, NHRTL filed a petition with the U.S. Supreme Court seeking review of a lower court decision that turned away in part an NHRTL Freedom of Information Act request about the federal grant. Bits and pieces of information have emerged, but the whole clear story of how the dollars got from the feds to PP is still not on the public record.

This doesn’t mean that history will repeat itself this month. It only means the precedent has been set.

~~~~~

This is as good a time as any to recall the time four years ago just after the Executive Council vote, when Planned Parenthood put enormous public pressure on the three Councilors who had denied them a contract. At that time, I was with New Hampshire’s Cornerstone Policy Research. We teamed up with the Susan B. Anthony List for a press conference to defend the Councilors. That was the day I met Catherine Adair, who spoke to the crowd about her experience as a PP employee. Here’s a reminder that the need to let taxpayers divest their funds from PP didn’t just spring up this week.