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My Turn: Health, safety and access to reproductive care

For the Monitor
Published: 9/14/2021 7:00:08 AM

The health, safety and access to reproductive care of Granite Staters are in the hands of Gov. Sununu and the four Republican Executive Councilors. It is past time for them to stand up for our well-being.

In applying for state funding earlier this year, New Hampshire family planning providers from across the state submitted detailed applications to the Department of Health and Human Services. These critical health centers include Amoskeag Health of Manchester; CAP of Belknap and Merrimack Counties; Concord Hospital Family Health Center; Coos County Family Health of Berlin; Equality Health Center of Concord; Joan G. Lovering Health Center of Greenland; Lamprey Health Care of Nashua; and Planned Parenthood of Northern New England (located in Claremont, Manchester, Keene, Derry and Exeter). These clinics have been providing health services to our communities for decades and thousands of families across our state rely on them for care.

In explaining the urgent need to approve these contracts, NH Health and Human Services Commissioner Lori Shibinette wrote that “the purpose of this request is to continue to provide family planning clinical services, STD and HIV counseling and testing, preventative health screenings and health education materials, and services to low-income individuals in need of reproductive health care services.”

Tomorrow, the contracts to fund these health care centers will come to the governor and Executive Council for a vote. Voting “yes” on the contracts means the aforementioned providers will get state funding, while voting “no” or voting to “table” results in either no or delayed state funding. In total, this decision represents nearly half a million dollars in care for Granite Staters. This amount, while a dramatic reduction in funding from prior years, is essential to the uninterrupted provision of reproductive care services.

Unfortunately, there have been statements by Republican Executive Councilors that they will vote to oppose or table this state funding, despite the strong support of HHS Commissioner Shibinette and the majority of New Hampshire residents for family planning services.

The work these health care centers do is too important to oppose. Reproductive care that improves birth outcomes, early detection of life-threatening cancers, counseling for survivors of sexual abuse, HIV and testing – these are services that seriously impact the health and safety of women and families, particularly those in low-income and vulnerable populations.

There are very few organizations providing family planning services through the Department of Health and Human Services. If one or more of these health care centers close due to a lack of state funding, it would be catastrophic. Any closure would create vast maternity deserts across huge swaths of our state. And, if any closures happen in the North Country, entire counties would be without services and people would be forced to drive hours for care.

Even if voting to defund these services does not close clinics entirely, the Department of Health and Human Services has previously stated that there would likely be a dramatic reduction in staff and operating hours resulting in long wait times and delayed access to care.

And, as Commissioner Shibinette warned: “Should the Governor and Executive Council not authorize this request, the sustainability of New Hampshire’s reproductive health care system will be negatively impacted. Not authorizing this request could remove the safety net of services that improve birth outcomes, prevent unplanned pregnancy and reduce health disparities, which could lead to poor health and economic outcomes for individuals and increase the cost of health care for New Hampshire citizens.”

For many Granite Staters, these family planning centers are their only access to preventative care. Voting ‘no’ on family planning contracts translates into the denial of care to tens of thousands of families across our state. It translates into the tragic loss of life for an unknown number of Granite Staters whose cancer diagnoses may be delayed.

We need to do more to fund health care in our state. I will vote to approve these contracts, which will increase access to quality, affordable health care for the people of New Hampshire. I urge my fellow Executive Councilors to do the same.

(Cinde Warmington represents District 2 on New Hampshire’s Executive Council.)




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