Planned Parenthood of Northern New England (PPNNE) announced yesterday that the Obama administration is restoring funding to six New Hampshire health centers that were denied funding by that state three months ago.
Planned Parenthood's reversal of fortune this week will benefit the nearly 16,000 people in New Hampshire who visit PPNNE's six clinics annually. Another 1500 Vermonters visit Planned Parenthood's three centers near the Vermont/New Hampshire border, including those in Keene, West Lebanon and Claremont.
The $1.8 million funding cut had the biggest impact on low-income women who visit the Granite State health centers for preventative health care, including gynecological exams, cancer screening, STD testing and contraceptive services. Women who had been paying, on average, $5 for prescription birth control pills through Planned Parenthood, saw that expense jump to as much as $100 at regular pharmacies.
In June, New Hampshire's five-member Executive Council voted 3-2 to terminate the state's nearly 40-year-old contract with Planned Parenthood. Executive Councilor Daniel St. Hilaire, who cast the deciding vote on the all-male, all-Republican board, cited as his reason the fact that Planned Parenthood offers abortion services. Under New Hampshire law and federal law, tax dollars may not be used to pay for abortions.
Fellow Councilor Raymond Wieczorek of Manchester also said that he opposes funding for birth control and condoms altogether, telling the Concord Monitor in July that "If [women] want to have a good time, why not let them pay for it?"
"It’s incredibly frustrating and shortsighted of the Council because taking away access to contraceptives increases the rate of unintended pregnancies, which increases the rate of abortions," Jill Krowinski, director of public affairs for Planned Parenthood of Northern New England in Vermont, told Seven Days today.
Nevertheless, the Executive Council's vote effectively eliminated Title X family planning funding, which enables low-income women to access health care on a sliding fee scale. That money pays for such services as Pap smears, breast exams and birth control pills. In the last three months, more than 4000 women were turned away from Planned Parenthood's six New Hampshire clinics, which were facing either reduced hours or complete closure if funding wasn't restored.
But this week the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services determined that, by New Hampshire not funding these clinics, the state was effectively violating its federal mandate to provide Title X services statewide. Because New Hampshire didn’t have enough health care providers to take PPNNE’s place, Krowinski explained, it was in default of its obligations as a Title X grantee.
But Executive Councilor David Wheeler described the Obama administration's decision as one of "arrogance" for subverting the will of New Hampshire officials. As he told the Monitor, "Even though the state of New Hampshire turned down Planned Parenthood as a contractor, the Obama administration says you’re going to take it anyway, whether you like it or not."