NEW: Sununu’s Budget Could Interrupt Access to Health Care For NH Women
Fallout From Anti-Choice, Extreme Budget Gets Worse for Sununu and for Granite Staters
According to new reports, Planned Parenthood and other reproductive health centers may have to interrupt care they provide to Granite Staters -- including breast cancer screenings, STD testing, and reproductive health care -- due to an onerous requirement in Governor Sununu’s anti-choice budget that says DHHS must conduct an audit that shows reproductive health care centers aren’t using state funds for abortion services before the centers may receive funding from the state.
“Chris Sununu’s budget doesn’t just include an abortion ban — it puts in bureaucratic hurdles that will prevent New Hampshire women from accessing basic health care,” said NHDP spokesperson Gates MacPherson. “Sununu’s anti-choice budget could result in thousands of Granite Staters losing access to cancer screenings, STD testing, and reproductive health care — putting their health in danger.”
A new requirement that Planned Parenthood and other family planning organizations be audited by the Department of Health and Human Services could cause the Executive Council to delay state funding, councilors said Wednesday.
Funding contracts for Planned Parenthood, Equality Health Center in Concord, Lovering Health Center in Greenland, Amoskeag Health in Manchester, and others are set to expire Wednesday – the last day of the 2021 state fiscal year.
Typically, whenever reproductive health centers exhaust their funding by the end of the fiscal year, the Executive Council approves a retroactive funding contract to cover the care that was provided after June 30.
This year, however, members of the Republican-dominated council said they might not approve those retroactive contracts until DHHS carries out an audit to ensure the organizations aren’t using state money toward abortions.
“I think it’s only prudent that we have this information before we’re actually approving a contract,” said Councilor Dave Wheeler, a Milford Republican.
The audits of the providers are a new requirement included in the state’s budget. House Bill 2, the budget trailer bill signed by Gov. Chris Sununu last Friday, includes a mandate that any reproductive health facility funded by the state must be audited by DHHS at least once a year.
According to the budget, contracts with reproductive health facilities must now include guarantees “that no state funds shall be used to subsidize abortions, either directly or indirectly,” and a promise “that the family planning project will permit the commissioner of the Department of Health and Human Services, or his or her designated agent or delegate, to inspect the financial records of the family planning project to monitor compliance with this section.”
DHHS must in turn certify in writing to the Executive Council that it has inspected the finances of the organization by the end of every state fiscal year: June 30.
But Wheeler, who has voted against the funding of Planned Parenthood in the past, said he would push his colleagues to delay a vote until the audit was completed.
“It would definitely delay us bringing the contracts forward,” Shibinette said.
Cinde Warmington of Concord, the lone Democrat on the council, said the interruption would tie up other areas of health care provided by the organizations.
“That would be for breast cancer screenings, for reproductive and contraception care, for pap smears, for all the health care that you get, until your department has conducted a financial review?” Warmington asked Shibinette.
“Correct,” Shibinette said.
State funding for Planned Parenthood and other abortion providers is already in question this year. Three out of the five sitting councilors – Wheeler, Councilor Joe Kenney, a Wakefield Republican, and Councilor Ted Gatsas, a Manchester Republican – have voted in the past as councilors to strike down state contracts with abortion providers.
But the audit requirement could provide a new vehicle for that opposition.
A top New Hampshire health official says family planning organizations in the state could experience interruptions in service as they try to comply with new oversight provisions passed in the state budget.
The New Hampshire Executive Council, with a 4-1 Republican majority, isn't wasting any time when it comes to enforcing the greater oversight of family planning organizations enacted in the new budget.
Among the abortion restrictions passed via the budget trailer bill, there is a provision requiring annual audits of family planning organizations to ensure taxpayer dollars aren't funding abortions. That separation is already federal law, but some councilors want to take a more stringent view of how the money can be used.
Health and Human Services Commissioner Lori Shibinette told the council Wednesday that if the audits must be completed before new contracts can be approved, it will result in an interruption of all family planning services.
"It's a totally unacceptable outcome," said Councilor Cinde Warmington, D-Concord. "It cannot be. For the women of our state, it cannot be."
DHHS is seeking legal guidance on when the audits must be conducted. Shibinette said the oversight process is not new.
"We've always been empowered by the federal government to do these types of financial audits, so basically, the new policy is we're going to be doing them on every agency, every year," she said.