Abortion providers already must show they are not using state money for abortion services. (Michael M. Santiago | Getty Images)
House Republicans got a restriction on abortion funding back into the state budget Tuesday, but it is so scaled back it will likely impose no new limits or demands on providers.
Under a compromise crafted by Sen. Jeb Bradley, a Wolfeboro Republican, abortion providers will have to show they are not using state money for abortion services, as they already must. But they won’t be required to relocate abortion care to a separate location as House Republicans had demanded. If the state finds providers are commingling state and federal money, they will forfeit their state funding until they physically and financially separate services.
“I don’t believe (commingling) happens in New Hampshire,” Bradley said during final budget negotiations Tuesday. “So this is as much as anything an insurance policy to ensure that it doesn’t happen.” He continued: “This is one of those trust but verify moments.”
Bradley’s compromise passed a committee of conference, 7-1, with the lone Democrat, Sen. Cindy Rosenwald of Nashua, voting against it, in part because shutting down a clinic would also prevent it from offering routine reproductive health care like birth control, primary care, cancer screenings, and STD testing. Planned Parenthood has said that care accounts for nearly 90 percent of its work.
“This damaging amendment is based on a false narrative propagated by extremist Republicans intent on further dismantling women’s health care,” Rosenwald said in a statement after the vote. “State funds are not used to pay for abortions, period. Patients seeking an abortion in New Hampshire pay for those services out of pocket or through their health insurance carrier.” She continued, “When these services are hamstrung because of this partisan policy, illness and suffering may increase, and that will be on the Legislature.”
Abortion providers have said requiring a separate physical space for such a small portion of its services is not financially feasible and would jeopardize their ability to provide other care.
Rep. Jess Edwards, an Auburn Republican at Tuesday’s negotiations, said the 128 House Republicans who were insistent on a firmer separation have already drafted legislation they’ll introduce in January with the same separation requirement.
And, in the coming months, the Executive Council will vote whether to renew Planned Parenthood of Northern New England’s federal contract, a significant source of its funding. Three of the five sitting councilors have rejected the contract in the past because Planned Parenthood refused to relocate abortion services from their reproductive health care clinics. Those councilors have declined to say publicly how they will vote this year.
In the eyes of the 128 House Republicans who had said separation was nonnegotiable, state money is used for abortion services every time an abortion is done in a room where public funding pays for the lights and heat. They say “fungible” spending can be stopped only if the abortion services are done in a different location with separate staff.
“All we’re trying to do is to make sure that when people go into a family planning clinic that they’re going in there to plan a family, and not to be seeking an abortion,” Edwards said. “We’re just trying to keep family planning separate from the constitutionally protected right for women have to an abortion.”
The Senate removed the separation requirement from the House’s budget in another compromise that retained the House’s ban on abortions after 24 weeks.
Edwards came to Tuesday’s budget negotiations with his own compromise. Rather than require an immediate separation of services, Edwards’s amendment would have allowed abortion providers to finish their existing contracts with the state before having to physically and financially separate their services. It also allowed the state to renew those contracts, even if the clinics had not relocated abortion services, up to three times if there were no other providers performing abortions.
“We’ve attempted to create a graceful transition from where we’re at to where 128 House Republicans are asking us to go,” Edwards said.
After the vote, Edwards said he is hopeful those Republicans will be satisfied for now that their 24-week abortion ban remains in the budget and that Bradley’s amendment includes language acknowledging a desire for a physical and financial separation.
“All in all, we made a lot of progress and made historic progress,” he said, referring to the 24-week ban.
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