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.

But anyway, back to family planning, now that we know where abortion providers fit in.

Into the Weeds: Page 1191

Here’s a picture of page 1191 from the report prepared by the Office of Legislative Budget Assistant, comparing New Hampshire budget family planning allocations from fiscal years 2016 through 2019. This looks at past spending, plus projections for the next biennium. The “Governor” column reflects the budget request made by Governor Sununu. “H Finance” means House Finance Committee, and it’s the Finance Committee’s proposal that’s getting a House vote this week.

Numbers Get Larger

Look at the “contracts for program services” line. The numbers grow 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.

The general fund line near the bottom indicates how much money comes directly from state coffers. Again, there’s a projected increase.

Right above that is the gold mine: federal funds. These are grants, including but not limited to Title X, that flow from Washington to Concord for use in specific programs. (And they 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.

 


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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.

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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.

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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.

 

 

 

NHRTL petitions US Supreme Court for documents re PPNNE grant

New Hampshire Right to Life today petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court for a hearing to order the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to provide documents regarding a 2011 grant to Planned Parenthood of Northern New England. NHRTL originally filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request in October 2011 for documents about the sole-source non-competitive grant.

Attorneys for NHRTL say in today’s filing,

“The purpose of NHRTL’s requests was to expose what it considered an improper and potentially unlawful funding decision by HHS….[whose] decision to award Planned Parenthood a direct non-competitive grant was made hastily, in secret, and contrary to the usual protocols for awarding grants. Documents released by HHS showed that HHS was paying Planned Parenthood for birth control pills at nearly four times what Wal-Mart charged customers for the same pills. In addition, NHRTL suspected, as had the New Hampshire Executive Council, that Planned Parenthood was unlawfully using federal funds to subsidize abortion services, and that HHS knew that these federal funds were being used to subsidize abortions.”

The HHS grant in question was made shortly after the New Hampshire Executive Council rejected a Title X (ten) family planning contract with PPNNE in June 2011. Title X funds, while federal in origin, are administered by the states. Three months after the Executive Council vote, HHS in a surprise move made federal funds available to PPNNE, independent of any Executive Council oversight. NHRTL filed its FOIA request in October 2011 an effort to make public the process by which these funds were granted. A federal lawsuit followed after HHS did not produce documents in a timely fashion.

Some but not all of the requested documents relating to the grant have since been produced, some in redacted form. HHS has claimed the redactions and omissions are allowed under two exemptions within the FOIA law. That claim has been upheld in lower courts. NHRTL’s petition to the Supreme Court asserts in part that the U.S. First Circuit Court of Appeals ruling in this case creates a conflict with rulings on FOIA cases in three other Circuits.

One point of contention between the parties is the demand for public production of the PPNNE Medical Manual, outlining policies and procedures for operating a Title X federally-funded planning facility. According to today’s filing, such information is normally required by HHS as a condition for family planning grant funding. The First Circuit ruled that production of the manual and certain other documents would give an unfair advantage to a “potential future competitor” to PPNNE in future grant competitions. NHRTL notes in its petition that three other Circuits have ruled that FOIA exemptions refer to actual rather than potential competition.

NHRTL is also challenging an HHS decision to withhold some documents on the grounds that they refer to a deliberative pre-decision process, another FOIA exemption.

NHRTL is represented in New Hampshire Right to Life v. United States Department of Health and Human Services by Manchester attorney Michael Tierney and attorneys with Alliance Defending Freedom.

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Leaven for the Loaf will continue to cover this case as it develops.

Related posts (2013): PPNNE to get “retroactive” $$ from state? and Retroactivity and how not to de-fund an abortion provider