Family planning contracts with Planned Parenthood of Northern New England and two other health centers will go back before the Executive Council Wednesday – three months after the council voted them down 4-1 along party lines.
Nothing in the contracts appears to have changed, according to the explanation provided to the council by Health and Human Services. The department did not return a message Monday. Instead, the department told councilors it must provide affordable reproductive health care to low-income people in all parts of the state and received no other bids that would allow it to cover all regions.
Planned Parenthood, Lovering Health Center, and Equality Health Center alone provide contraception, STD testing and treatment, and cancer screenings to a large swath of New Hampshire, including Concord, the Seacoast, and western parts of the state, according to the department’s request. Together, those providers serve nearly 12,000 people a year.
The only other bids came from Amoskeag Health in Manchester, Coos County Health Care in Berlin, and Lamprey Health Care in Nashua, which account for the remaining 3,000 people expected to use the low-income health services.
“Not authorizing this request could remove the safety net that improves birth outcomes, prevents unplanned pregnancies, and reduces health disparities, which could increase the cost of health care for New Hampshire citizens,” Health and Human Services Commissioner Lori Shibinette wrote in her request.
Before voting down the contracts in September, the council’s Republicans raised concerns about abortion services provided by Planned Parenthood, Equality Health Center, and the Lovering Health Center. Confirmations from the department and attorney general that all three are complying with a legal requirement to use private money – not tax dollars – for abortion services were not persuasive.
Councilors David Wheeler and Joseph Kenney raised doubts about financial separation when reproductive health care and abortion services are provided in the same building. Councilor Ted Gatsas cited concerns about centers providing juveniles morning after contraception pills, which are available over the counter and can be purchased without proof of age.
Wheeler, Kenney, and Councilor Janet Stevens, who also voted against the contracts, could not be reached Monday.
Gatsas cited another concern when reached Monday: Planned Parenthood’s political advocacy. “They spend an awful lot of money on politics,” he said. Providers, including Planned Parenthood, are prohibited from using public money for political advocacy. Asked about that requirement, Gatsas said, “I think I was clear with my answer.”
His position, he said, has not changed.
Councilor Cinde Warmington, the council’s lone Democrat and only member to vote for the contracts, could not be reached Monday.
Kayla Montgomery of Planned Parenthood of Northern New England will be watching the vote.
“On Wednesday, New Hampshire’s Executive Council has an opportunity to vote again on necessary state funding to help provide health care to lower-income and marginalized people,” she said. “Councilors’ questions have been answered, and a no vote on this contract would demonstrate they are putting personal politics over the public health of our communities. With our hospitals overwhelmed, now, more than ever, we need a strong public health network.”
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