Earlier this week, the Executive Council blocked a $1.8 million dollar contract for Planned Parenthood of Northern New England. That loss of revenue is compounded by a similar reduction in the budget passed by the Legislature on Wednesday. Planned Parenthood says the cut could have a devastating effect on the some 16 thousand clients they serve. NHPR’s Dan Gorenstein has more.
The Executive Council voted on several family planning service contracts.
And they all passed, except the one for Planned Parenthood.
Councilor Dan St. Hilaire says as a rule, he supports much of what happens at these clinics.
“They provide education. I think that’s important. Family assistance is important. Preventing teenage pregnancy is important.”
But Hilaire says, when it comes to Planned Parenthood, he draws the line.
“Actually funding an agency that performs the actual event is something that I would object to, and I have objected to. That’s what I voted against it.”
The so-called ‘event’ is abortions.
Hilaire and two of the other councilors rejected the $1.8 million dollar federal and state contract because they oppose taxpayer money supporting organizations that provide abortions.
Planned Parenthood points out abortions are covered either by health insurance or patient payment.
The taxpayer dollars fund the other 97% of what the Planned Parenthood clinics provide, like cervical cancer screenings, breast exams and sexually transmitted infections.
Amanda Mehegan- who is the site manager for the office in West Lebanon- estimates 75-100 people come in for those kinds of services at week.
And many don’t have much money to pay for those services.
“I had a patient the other day who came in to pick up her pack of birth control which at the normal pharmacy would have cost her more than $100. She gave us a handful of change. It totaled $1.37. She gave us a $1.37 because that’s what she could afford in her budget.”
Planned Parenthood says in 2010, 68% of their patients were at or below 150% of the federal poverty level.
And Steve Trombly, the organization’s CEO says, if the funding doesn’t come through, patients like that woman with the change will have to go elsewhere.
“We will not be able to continue to see the more than 15,000 patients we see every year in our New Hampshire locations. In terms of where we would not continue services, we do not know the answer to that yet. But we do know that this will have a devastating and significant effect on a number of women and families in this state.”
Kevin Smith from the conservative advocacy group Cornerstone Action doesn’t buy the claim that Planned Parenthood will have to cut services.
Smith says the organization shouldn’t be spending 28% of its budget on administrative costs, including salaries, advocacy, marketing and fundraising.
“So if they are saying by losing this contract they now can’t help women’s healthcare, that’s just a complete fallacy. It shows they are sacrificing women’s health for their own political power or their own salaries. And that’s just not right.”
Planned Parenthood of Northern New England believes its business model stands up.
Last year, the organization says it leveraged $900 thousand dollars in federal and state funds, to provide over $5 million dollars in free or reduced care.
Policy advisor Jennifer Frizzell says there’s no doubt the state is getting a good deal.
“We have centralized services across three states...so that we can have a very lean administration. And even though we are delivering healthcare in 26 sites, reaching hundreds of communities, we are able to do so in a manner where the highest and best dollar is available for patient care.”
The Executive Council has asked the Department of Health and Human Services for additional information about this contract.
However, if the Council can’t be persuaded, attorney Martin Honigberg says Planned Parenthood may still get funding.
“There are two federal court decisions, Texas and Missouri, that say it’s not constitutional to exclude abortion providers from eligibility for family planning funds on the basis they provide abortions.”
Honigberg says if the Executive Council doesn’t reverse course on the contract, then the state could find itself in court.