Reproductive health care contracts again rejected by Executive Council Republicans

By: - January 12, 2022 1:27 pm
Executive Council meets

Executive Councilor Cinde Warmington (center right) advocates for family planning contracts with Planned Parenthood of Northern New England, Equality Health Center, and Lovering Health Center at Wednesday’s Executive Council meeting. The contracts failed, 4-1. (Annmarie Timmins | New Hampshire Bulletin)

For the third time since September, the Executive Council rejected contracts Wednesday that provide 80 percent of the low-cost reproductive health care to Granite Staters in the state’s Family Planning Program.

The 4-1 vote again fell along party lines, with only Democratic Councilor Cinde Warmington voting for the two-year contracts with Planned Parenthood of Northern New England, Equality Health Center, and Lovering Health Center. Together, those agencies provide birth control, prenatal care, cancer screenings, and STD testing and treatment for 12,000 people annually who are low-income, uninsured, or under-insured.

The agencies have said the loss of funding will limit the number of services they can provide at no cost and raise rates for some clients.

Before and after the vote, Health and Human Services Commissioner Lori Shibinette asked the Republican councilors if there was any information she could provide to get their support. (She and Attorney General John Formella have previously assured them audits confirm they are using only private money – not taxpayer dollars – for abortions.) 

None responded.

After the vote, Councilor Ted Gatsas asked Gov. Chris Sununu, who supports the contracts and sets the council agenda, if he intends to bring them back for another vote. “I might,” Sununu said. “I might put it on the agenda every meeting. Who knows?” 

Warmington asked that he do so.

Only Councilor David Wheeler explained his opposition to the contact at Wednesday’s meeting, saying he does not believe abortion services can be financially separated from the other care. Gatsas has said previously he objects to the three providers making the morning-after pill, a form of contraception, available to minors without parental consent. It doesn’t matter, he has said, that drug stores do the same.

Councilors Janet Stevens and Joe Kenney did not weigh in Wednesday.

The three agencies called the vote a continued disappointment

“Since this Executive Council cast their first vote to defund reproductive health providers last September, hundreds of Granite Staters have spoken out,” said Kayla Montgomery, vice president for public affairs at Planned Parenthood of Northern New England, in a statement. “Councilors Kenney, Stevens, Gatsas, and Wheeler have now had two opportunities to fix their mistake but refuse to put their personal politics to the side to do what’s right for their constituents. This is yet another vote to dismantle the state family planning program, and it is irresponsible and will cause irreparable harm to our network of care.”

Sandi Denoncour, executive director of Lovering Health Center, said: “For six months reproductive health providers and state public health officials have bent over backwards to answer all the council’s questions. As asserted by the attorney general, our health centers are in full compliance with state law. Unfortunately, the council’s willful ignorance threatens New Hampshire’s strong maternal health outcomes, including the lowest unintended pregnancies and teen pregnancy rates in the country.”

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Annmarie Timmins
Annmarie Timmins

Senior reporter Annmarie Timmins is a New Hampshire native who covered state government, courts, and social justice issues for the Concord Monitor for 25 years. During her time with the Monitor, she won a Nieman Fellowship to study journalism and mental health courts at Harvard for a year. She has taught journalism at the University of New Hampshire and writing at the Nackey S. Loeb School of Communications.