In New Hampshire, a group of "executive councilors," elected officials who approve contracts and gubernatorial appointments as a check on the governor's power, voted two weeks ago against renewing a contract that would have provided Planned Parenthood of New Hampshire with $1.8 million in state and federal money for the next two years starting this month.This was a routine contract in place for about 30 years. Some pointed to abortion services that Planned Parenthood provides as the reason for their 'no' votes, though evidence suggests a much deeper agenda.
As a result, six Planned Parenthood centers in New Hampshire have now stopped dispensing contraception last week.
According to the Concord Monitor, Planned Parenthood had operated under a limited retail pharmacy license that was contingent on having a state contract. That contract accounts for approximately 20 percent of PP New Hampshire's annual budget, and would have paid for sexual health education and counseling, distribution of contraceptive supplies, and testing and treatment of sexually transmitted infections. While Planned Parenthood New Hampshire provides abortions, no public funding can be or is used for these, which are covered by individuals seeking abortion and through private donations. To ensure a firewall, PPNH conducts regular audits to ensure no money is used.
Last year, according to Steve Trombley, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood of Northern New Englan, Planned Parenthood provided contraception for 13,242 patients in New Hampshire, while also providing 6,112 breast exams, 5,548 screenings for cervical cancer and 18,858 tests for sexually transmitted infections. If the contract is not renewed, Planned Parenthood will drastically reduce its services, Trombley told the Monitor. The organization employs 80 people in New Hampshire.
Planned Parenthood treats 52 percent of patients whose care is subsidized by the New Hampshire state family planning program, Trombley said. It provides its services on a sliding scale based on income, with 70 percent of patients paying nothing or near nothing for birth control pills because they earn less than 150 percent of the federal poverty line. The federal poverty guidelines vary with the number of people in a household, with a single person qualifying at $10,890 per year and a family of four qualifying at $22,350 a year.
The center has been turning away 20 to 30 patients a day who have arrived to refill their birth control prescriptions.
According to the Monitor:
At the Planned Parenthood center in West Lebanon yesterday, Laura Caravella arrived to pick up her patient file to bring it to a physician. Caravella, a 25-year-old paraprofessional at an elementary school in Vermont, had tried to refill her birth control prescription last Friday and learned she could not.
She said she was concerned about the cost of her prescription without the sliding scale offered by Planned Parenthood.
"Financially it's really stressful," Caravella said. "I'm already living almost paycheck to paycheck as it is."
Stephanie Hiltunen, a 26-year-old who lives in Hanover, said she picked up a monthlong supply of birth control last Thursday, the day before the center stopped dispensing it. But future refills will require an inconvenient trip to Enfield, she said. Hiltunen said she would like to have a child but cannot afford it, and she worries there will be a public cost if contraception is inaccessible to low-income women.
"If they can't afford to have a baby, then we'll be paying for them in the long run," she said.
As PPNH staffers have noted, some women have said they will stop taking birth control because they cannot afford the higher prices charged by pharmacies, especially since 70 percent of the center's patients lack private health insurance. Women with breast and cervical cancer will go longer without a diagnosis, both because of direct cuts in funding for examinations and because many women are drawn to the center to pick up their birth control and then receive checkups.
"For most of our patients Planned Parenthood may be the only medical visit they have in a year," a staffer said. "I think a lot of patients really rely on that as their yearly checkup."
Anne Hildreth, a practitioner at the West Lebanon center who has worked for Planned Parenthood for 22 years, questioned the rationale of limiting access to contraception in an effort to prevent abortions.
"It's crazy to not give women birth control if you want to stop women from having abortions," Hildreth said.
So let's review the situation: A public health service that provides basic primary public health care services to people who otherwise can not afford them, enabling those people to stay healthy, get treatment when needed, and to plan their families, has been defunded. Eliminating these services will cost the state of New Hampshire untold amounts of money in curative health care and in unwanted and untenable pregnancies, and will abrogate women's rights to basic health care. And the decision was made... why?
Ostensibly because of opposition to abortion. But a comment made by one of the councilors makes clear the real agenda: limiting women's ability to gain access to contraception in the first place and making women "pay" for having sex.
Executive Councilor Raymond Wieczorek of Manchester, said he had asked if the contract could exclude the issuance of condoms. Wieczorek said he supports paying to test for sexually transmitted diseases but does not believe the state should subsidize contraception.
"If they want to have a good time, why not let them pay for it?" he said.