Republican cuts to the state’s Family Planning Program, which subsidizes reproductive health care for low-income people, have reduced the number of sites to four. (Screenshot)
The state Department of Health and Human Services will ask lawmakers Friday to approve additional funding for the state’s family planning program, which has seen deep cuts by Republican executive councilors who disbelieve state assurances the money does not fund abortions.
The $1.42 million funding request going to the Joint Legislative Fiscal Committee is the first step to bringing a new round of family planning contracts before the Executive Council, said Trish Tilley, director of the Division of Public Health Services at Health and Human Services. The money seeks to correct a budgeting error in the last state budget, she said.
It is not clear whether the department will again seek state approval to fund the providers already rejected by the council: Planned Parenthood of Northern New England, Lovering Health Center, and Equality Health Center. Together, they provide basic reproductive health care, such as cancer screenings, STD testing and treatment, and contraception, to 12,000 Granite Staters, or about 70 percent of low-income residents who rely on the subsidized care through the family planning program.
The department issued a “request for proposals” this spring to reproductive health care providers interested in joining the family planning program. Currently, there are just four sites in the state that offer subsidized care under the program, Coos County Health in Berlin, CAP Belknap-Merrimack in Laconia, Amoskeag Health in Manchester, and Lamprey Health Care in Nashua.
Sate and federal family planning money cannot be used for abortions. Health and Human Services audited the three providers, per a new legislative requirement, and told executive councilors in September none of the money is being used for abortions.
Tilley said she could not say whether Planned Parenthood, Lovering Health, and Equality Health had submitted proposals or would be among the providers the department seeks Executive Council permission to contract with because it is still finalizing the details.
The department has brought the contacts to councilors more than once, without success.
After councilors voted 4-1 along party lines to reject the contracts in September, the department returned three months later with the same contracts saying it had an obligation to provide care in all parts of the state but hadn’t received bids from any other providers that would accomplish that. The council again rejected the contracts in December and again in January.
Under a prior Trump Administration rule to the federal Title X Family Planning Program, providers who do not perform abortions were forbidden from discussing abortion with patients or referring them to abortion providers. The Biden Administration lifted those restrictions.
Tilley said the rule change has increased interest from providers who had rejected the federal funding under the old rules.
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