U.S. News

New Hampshire Planned Parenthood stops providing birth control

LITTLETON, New Hampshire (Reuters) - Planned Parenthood has stopped providing birth control pills and other contraception in New Hampshire after the state’s executive council rejected up to $1.8 million in funding for the group, which also provides privately-funded abortions.

The move is expected to affect an average of 120 low-income women each day. Other services provided by Planned Parenthood, including pelvic exams, were also in peril.

“Patients who used to be able to come to us for their pills now have to walk away,” said Jennifer Frizzell, a spokeswoman for Planned Parenthood of Northern New England.

The Republicans that compose New Hampshire’s five-member executive council voted 3-2 to reject funding for Planned Parenthood’s six clinics in the state on June 22.

The council, a vestige of the state’s colonial government that is independent of the governor, must approve all state contracts greater than $10,000.

“I am opposed to abortion,” said Raymond Wieczorek, a council member who voted against the contract. “I am opposed to providing condoms to someone. If you want to have a party, have a party but don’t ask me to pay for it.”

Under federal law, Planned Parenthood cannot use government funds to provide abortion, and Frizzell said it the group is subject to regular audits to ensure that only private money is used to pay for abortions.

Efforts in New Hampshire’s Republican-controlled legislature to cut off funding for Planned Parenthood entirely failed earlier this year.

Frizzell said the organization was surprised that the executive council, which usually steers clear of controversial policy issues, had entered the debate.

State and federal funds from the contract make up about 20 percent of the Planned Parenthood’s annual budget in New Hampshire. Frizzell said the group was hoping to persuade the council to reverse its vote, and is considering filing suit.

A number of other health services, including pelvic exams and treatment for sexually-transmitted diseases, were being funded on a week-to-week basis, she said.

“If this funding isn’t restored we won’t be able to do that and may have to start closing centers,” she said.

New Hampshire’s move is part of a national effort by abortion foes to defund Planned Parenthood’s health and family planning operations in response to the organization’s abortion services and advocacy.

In June, a federal judge in Indiana ruled the state could not cut off Medicaid funds to Planned Parenthood clinics in that state. The organization has also filed suits in Kansas and North Carolina after legislatures in those states stripped it of funding.

Reporting by Jason McLure, editing by Ros Krasny