Republicans again reject family planning clinic contracts
CONCORD, N.H. (AP) — Republicans rejected contracts with New Hampshire health clinics for a third time Wednesday over unsupported concerns that public money is paying for abortions.
As it did in September and December, the Executive Council — which approves nominations and state contracts — voted 4-1 to deny funding to the Equality Health Center, Lovering Health Center and Planned Parenthood of Northern New England.
The contracts were the first to be brought forward under a new requirement that the state confirm financial separation between family planning programs and abortion services. At the time of the first vote in September, audits were incomplete.
Councilors received audit reports confirming that funds were not commingled by the time of the second vote, but one councilor said she was concerned clinics had not yet corrected problems unrelated to how money was spent.
State officials said Wednesday those problems have been fixed — but the vote was the same.
Councilor David Wheeler said the information provided was not enough to prove that state money wasn’t being used directly or indirectly to pay for abortion services. Neither he nor the other three Republicans on the council answered when Department of Health and Human Services Commissioner Lori Shibinette asked what information would satisfy them.
“Is there something I can provide, something I could tell you?” she said. “Anything?”
The contracts, which were supported by Gov. Chris Sununu, would have extended funding that the clinics and their 12,000 patients have counted on for years for cancer screenings, testing for sexually transmitted diseases and other routine health care services.
Public health officials have said patients likely will end up forgoing treatment or seeking it at hospitals that are already overwhelmed by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Right now our health system is strained at every level,” said Councilor Cinde Warmington, the council’s lone Democrat who voted in favor of the contracts.
Sandi Denoncour, executive director of Lovering Health Center, said the clinics and health officials have bent over backwards to answer the council’s questions for the last six months.
“As asserted by the Attorney General, our health centers are in full compliance with state law,” she said in a statement. “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.”