Audit Shows NH Health Clinics Funding Doesn't Go to Abortion, Council Votes It Down Anyway

Despite an audit showing that New Hampshire health clinic funding doesn't go toward abortion, the Executive Council denied the funding for it Wednesday.

The Equality Health Center, Lovering Health Center, and Planned Parenthood Northern of New England were denied funding a second time under a new state requirement in which the state affirms financial separation between abortion services and family planning programs.

"We found that we don't even pay enough to fund their regular family planning. We do not subsidize abortion services, and all of the paperwork supports that," Health and Human Services Commissioner Lori Shibinette said.

When the first vote occurred in September, audits were unfinished. However, the four Republicans still voted no 4-1 in the second one, with audit reports showing that funds were not combined.

Planned Parenthood of Northern New England Vice President Kayla Montgomery said the vote was shameful.

"Once again, four executive councilors have chosen to reject public health experts and put their own personal politics before the health of our state," she said. "The rejection of these critical funds harms the delivery of essential health care for lower-income and marginalized Granite Staters."

Councilor Janet Stevens expressed concern that the clinics have not corrected issues identified in the audits. Officials said they will meet a deadline set for December 31 to fix them though, and that none of them have any relation regarding how the funding was spent.

Abortion Funding, Denied, Executive Council, New Hampshire
Planned Parenthood of Northern New England Vice President Kayla Montgomery said the vote Wednesday was shameful. Here, the outside of the Planned Parenthood Reproductive Health Services Center is seen in St. Louis, Missouri, May 31, 2019, the last location in the state performing abortions. Saul Loeb/AFP via Getty Images

Sandi Denoncour, executive director of Lovering Health Center, said she was frustrated and angry with Stevens, who she said did not respond to repeated efforts to contact her before the vote.

"We would've been happy to share with her what our corrective actions were and our plans to rectify them," she said. "I do not believe it's a genuine request for information to influence this decision. I think it's a completely political block to distance herself from the decision she made today."

The contracts, which were supported by Governor Chris Sununu, would have extended funding the clinics have counted on for years for cancer screenings, testing for sexually transmitted diseases, and other routine health care services. Patricia Tilley, head of the state Division of Public Health Services, said patients likely will end up forgoing treatment or seeking it at hospitals that are already overwhelmed by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Councilor Ted Gatsas objected on the grounds that state funding shouldn't go to clinics where 14-year-old girls could obtain the morning-after pill without parental consent. Shibinette noted that parental consent isn't required for contraception.

"We don't hear any objection to a 14-year-old boy buying condoms," she said.

Councilor Cinde Warmington, the lone Democrat, agreed.

"This is once again an attack on women and controlling women," she said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Abortion Funding, Denied, Executive Council, New Hampshire
Councilor Janet Stevens expressed concern that the clinics have not corrected issues identified in the audits. Here, activists participate in a candlelight vigil on abortion rights in front of U.S. Supreme Court December 13, in Washington, D.C. Alex Wong/Getty Images