NH delegation pressing for family planning grants

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Jul. 21—CONCORD — The state's U.S. House delegation is urging the Biden administration to speed up federal grants for family planning programs after the New Hampshire Legislature rejected requests to fill in the gap.

U.S. Reps. Annie Kuster and Chris Pappas, both D-N.H., wrote a letter to Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra, urging him to find a way to more quickly reverse a Trump administration policy that prompted most Granite State family planning providers to pull out of the Title X program.

"This gap in financing will significantly impact the day-to-day operations of these centers and imperil access to care for over 16,000 Granite State women who receive health services through Title X providers," Pappas and Kuster wrote.

"To address this funding gap, we are requesting to work in partnership with HHS and New Hampshire health centers to ensure they have the financial stability and standing to continue serving women across New Hampshire."

But Kayla Montgomery, vice president for public affairs for Planned Parenthood of Northern New England, said it's unlikely these providers will not be getting the additional federal money until next March.

"This delay was something we knew and we encouraged (state) budget writers to fill the gap," Montgomery said during a news conference Wednesday about the cost for women of prescription drugs.

"The pot of family planning dollars is much smaller than it has to be."

The Republican-led Legislature rejected a state budget amendment from Sen. Cindy Rosenwald, D-Nashua, to increase state family planning money by $1.2 million.

Montgomery said she also appreciated the earlier call from Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., for the Biden administration to increase these grants.

State Rep. Jess Edwards, R-Auburn, chaired the House Finance Committee working group that dealt with the family planning grant program.

Edwards said the next budget increased those dollars by 10% over the next year.

He said these programs should not get additional dollars, unless they can prove that they are not comingling money for family planning with their abortion clinics.

In the coming weeks, the Executive Council will deal with this controversy as family planning contracts come up for renewal.

Councilor David Wheeler, R-Milford, said the council should not approve the agreements until the audits of the programs have been completed.

Health and Human Services Commissioner Lori Shibinette said the audits will take too much time to complete and such a requirement could lead to an interruption of service for these providers.

State Sen. Tom Sherman, D-Rye, said GOP legislative leaders have taken several actions that hurt the access for women to health care including a ban on abortion after 24 weeks, mandatory ultrasounds for those wanting to end a pregnancy and rejecting legislation that would have required businesses to make accommodations for pregnant women or newborn mothers in the workplace (HB 610).

"This is their legacy that they are not supporting women in New Hampshire in any way," Sherman said.

klandrigan@unionleader.com

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