Planned Parenthood, other organizations, face funding crunch after budget veto

Monitor staff
Published: 7/2/2019 5:47:54 PM

Gov. Chris Sununu’s veto of the Democratically passed budget puts the fate of several long-term initiatives in the air – from education funding to mental health care.

But for Planned Parenthood and other state reproductive health centers, it also sets up an immediate funding crunch.

A $1.6 million appropriation proposed in the budget was meant to act as a state-funded counterweight against stringent new funding conditions imposed by President Donald Trump. Now, with the state budget at a standstill, abortion-providing health centers say they’ll have to cut back on non-abortion-related health services to absorb the new cuts.

“The impact actually is huge,” said Dalia Vudunas, executive director of Equality Health Center in Concord, at a meeting with Democratic legislative leaders Tuesday.

The money, which the center has been using for four years now, has allowed the organization to provide discounted sexually transmitted infections testing, long-term birth control methods like intrauterine devices and other specialized services to low-income families. Much of that, Vidunas said, would need to be cut back.

The issue stems back more than a year.

In May 2018, Trump’s Health and Human Services Department issued a rule to restrict federal Title X funding to Planned Parenthood and other facilities if certain conditions are not met around abortion coverage. That rule, labeled a “domestic gag order” by reproductive rights advocates, took formal effect late last month after a group of judges in the Ninth Circuit Court put a halt on an injunction that had stopped it.

The final version of the Democrats’ budget, which passed June 27, was meant to cover the expected gap in funding for New Hampshire organization – a provision Sununu has supported.

But now, after the governor’s veto and ahead of a potentially months-long negotiation process, the organizations are scrambling.

Planned Parenthood and other organizations are not allowed to use federal funds for abortion services, a ban in effect since the establishment of the Hyde Amendment in 1976. But the groups can use federal money for other health care services, like sexually transmitted infection testing and breast cancer screenings.

The Trump administration rule tightened the requirements that certain organizations must meet to get those federal funds. Facilities that provide abortions must physically separate those operations from other health care services, and must utilize separate staff and accounting units, standards that Planned Parenthood and others say are impractical.

And facilities that don’t provide abortions but receive Title X money, such as federally qualified health centers, are not allowed to refer patients to abortion providers under the rule; those that do would lose those funds.

The organizations affected say they won’t attempt to comply with the new requirements to qualify for the funding, for both practical and ethical reasons. That means bracing for impact.

Planned Parenthood’s New Hampshire clinics will lose a quarter of its operating budget as the rule takes effect, according to Sabrina Dunlap, vice president of public policy. The Democrats’ budget was meant to provide a state-funded backstop to the shortfall, similar to an initiative that passed in Massachusetts and other states this year.

“It hurts people,” Dunlap said. “... New Hampshire has enjoyed a pretty lengthy history of good public health outcomes, in large part because we have a great family planning program.”

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