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Planned Parenthood contract clears Executive Council, 3-2, after lengthy debate

State House Bureau

November 08. 2017 10:04PM
Planned Parenthood supporters crowd into the Executive Council chambers for a council vote on Wednesday. (Dave Solomon/Union Leader)

CONCORD — A $548,000, two-year contract with Planned Parenthood of Northern New England was approved in a 3-2 vote by the Executive Council on Wednesday after a lengthy debate over contract details and the split between federal and state funding.

Planned Parenthood is one of 10 vendors for family planning services approved by the council at the recommendation of the Department of Health and Human Services, for a total of $2.9 million.

The two-year contracts with the other nine agencies involve a blend of federal and state funds, with federal grants covering about 70 percent of the cost.

The Planned Parenthood contract approved by the council, however, is funded entirely by the state treasury.

Planned Parenthood receives its federal funds directly from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services – a practice that began in 2011 when the Executive Council voted 3-2 against funding Planned Parenthood.

Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-NH, then convinced federal health officials to contract directly with Planned Parenthood, effectively cutting out the state as middleman for the federal dollars.

Patricia Tilley, deputy public health director, said the contracts are retroactive and that the vendors have been providing services since July 1 in anticipation of Executive Council approval.

“These contracts are coming after the beginning of the fiscal year because we took a considerable amount of time to ensure we publicized this opportunity,” she said.

Republican councilors have consistently pressed state Health and Human Services officials to broaden the vendors providing family planning services beyond Planned Parenthood.

The council was asked to approve the contracts as a package but voted to take up each one individually.

Services funded under the contracts include contraception, pregnancy testing, infertility services, cancer screening and treatment of sexually transmitted diseases.

“Services provided under this agreement follow all federal and state regulations,” according to the request for approval submitted by Lisa Morris, director of the Division of Public Health Services in DHHS. “No abortion services are provided through these agreements.”

Councilor David Wheeler, R-Milford, a vocal abortion opponent, voted against all 10 contracts because he believes the agencies do provide what he considers abortion services through medication like “the morning after pill,” and by referring clients to abortion providers.

Councilor Joe Kenney, R-Union, voted against contracts with the Equality Health Center in Concord, the Joan G. Lovering Health Center in Greenland and Planned Parenthood of New England because, he said, “I was informed they provide abortion services.”

Democratic councilors Chris Pappas of Manchester and Andru Volinsky of Concord voted for all 10 contracts, as did Republican Councilor Russell Prescott of Kingston. Prescott said it was his role as a councilor to assess the contracts on their legality, the cost efficiency to the state and consistency with legislative policy.

“There are lines of credit building up with people who have been running operations now for 90 days in anticipation of this money,” he said.

The following contracts were approved:

Community Action Program of Belknap and Merrimack counties, $431,864;

Concord Hospital Family Health Center, $259,098;

Coos County Family Health, $157,270;

Equality Health Center, Concord, $179,800

Joan G. Lovering Health Center, Greenland, $222,896;

Lamprey Health Care, $462,602;

Manchester Community Health Care, $265,086;

Mascoma Community Health Care; $200,000;

White Mountain Community Health Center, $188,786.

Paperwork initially presented by the Department of Health and Human Services contained some errors, which prompted Wheeler to press for delay in considering the contracts. Instead, the council pushed the vote to the end of its meeting to allow DHHS staff to provide corrected materials.

“The numbers are accurate. The dollar amounts being allocated to each vendor are accurate. The only problem is how the department calculated the percentage split between federal and state,” said DHHS Commissioner Jeffrey Meyers.

Councilors were lobbied heavily on the issue.

“Outside political groups opposed to abortion and some forms of birth control had targeted the councilors with a campaign urging that they reject contracts with any organizations that offer abortion, even though those services are privately funded,” said Jennifer Frizzell, vice president of policy for PPNNE.

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