Amendment to state budget could cut funding to abortion providers, advocates say

Monitor staff
Published: 3/23/2021 5:15:57 PM

An amendment to the state budget introduced on Monday may force family planning programs to relinquish all state funding that helps pay for contraception and STD screening for low-income women in New Hampshire if they don’t physically and financially separate their abortion services.

Currently, neither state nor federal funding goes towards abortions in New Hampshire. However, at a finance committee meeting on Monday, Rep. Jess Edwards argued that when women receive counseling about their reproductive options from an organization that offers abortion services, there is a financial incentive to recommend abortions more often than adoption or foster care.

“The value of a physical and financial segregation is to ensure that medical counseling is done with the full focus on the woman and her family’s needs without being jaundiced by a profit incentive of referring someone to the abortion wing,” he said.

Because of the costs associated with building or renting a separate space, Rep. Katherine Rogers, a Concord Democrat, said the requirement would force health centers to choose between state funding and providing abortions altogether.

“The physical separation is something that is quite impossible to comply with, in a number of the health centers we’re talking about, ” she said. “These health centers are not in any way rich.”

This amendment mirrors Trump-era federal policy, which similarly required health clinics to maintain a physical and financial separation between abortion and other services to receive federal funding. State budget writers nixed an earlier amendment that emulated a federal “gag rule” on abortion referrals.

Kayla Montgomery, the Senior Director of Public Affairs for Planned Parenthood of Northern New England, said the notion that health centers make any sort of profit off of abortion services is unfounded.

She said in 2020, abortions only account for about 8% of the provided services, while the vast majority of the time, the center provides birth control or helps evaluate reproductive health symptoms, she said.

It’s not clear what a physical separation requirement will look like in practice. Montgomery fears they would need to build or rent a completely separate building with entirely new staff, which they couldn’t afford.

In the midst of a pandemic is an especially difficult time to cut funding. Planned Parenthood has worked to keep its doors open for the last year to care for those in need of urgent care, Montgomery said.

“This guts the family planning program completely,” she said. “None of these requirements contribute to the health of patients. This amendment is clearly only intended to make it impossible for health centers like Planned Parenthood to participate in the program.”




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