MANCHESTER — Low-income citizens, many of them without insurance, scrambled in the wake of Planned Parenthood’s pullout from the federal Title X program due to a Trump administration gag rule that blocks providers from making an abortion referral.
The move in New Hampshire affects 11,000 citizens who had been getting deep discounts when they received contraception, cancer screening or tests for sexually transmitted diseases at Planned Parenthood’s five clinics in the state.
“If these people weren’t accessing services through Title X, in many cases they would not be able to afford it otherwise,” said Derek Edry, communications manager for Planned Parenthood of Northern New England.
Planned Parenthood officials stressed Tuesday their clinics remain open and all clients will continue to receive the same level of care at low cost because the group will for now tap emergency funds to keep services at status quo.
Meanwhile, a more permanent solution is part of the fight over the vetoed state budget in Concord. The Democratically-led Legislature passed a budget that would have state dollars replace any federal money lost over the gag rule fight.
Annie Johnson of Sanbornton said she’s been a patient with Planned Parenthood for more than 15 years and used Title X services countless times.
Here are some of the key questions and answers regarding the controversy between Planned Par…
“I don’t know if I’d be here today if it weren’t for the services I’ve received from Planned Parenthood,” Johnson said during a round table on the gag rule at the Equality Health Center in Concord last week.
“Through the Title X program, I’ve been able to access discounted services that would have otherwise cost me tens of thousands of dollars. I’m here today to make sure that patients like me can continue to access these essential health care services they rely on. Everyone should be able to access the health care they need.”
For years, Planned Parenthood fought the efforts of social conservatives to “defund” the agency, but on Monday it voluntarily withdrew from Title X due to the gag rule the Trump administration executed last February.
The rule required clear separation of abortion services from all other programs that Planned Parenthood offers.
The rule banned Title X providers from referring a patient for an abortion.
The federal Hyde Amendment prohibits spending federal money to support abortions except in cases of the mother’s life being in danger or the pregnancy being the result of rape or incest.
“The Trump administration gag rules try to equate Title X with abortion services and there’s no relationship. It’s false to say the Title X program is associated in any way with abortion,” Planned Parenthood’s Edry said.
Anti-abortion groups have charged Planned Parenthood officials skillfully commingled money for abortion and other services, a claim Planned Parenthood executives have denied.
The head of New Hampshire’s leading socially conservative interest group, Cornerstone Action, said the fight is over abortion and not generally about women’s health care.
“Planned Parenthood’s decision to reject Title X funds is a business decision based on abortion politics, not health care. Abortion, not health care, drives Planned Parenthood’s business model. Any agency that provides family planning without also being involved in abortion remains eligible for Title X funds,” Cornerstone Executive Director Shannon McGinley said in a statement.
“Other providers will continue to provide Title X services because they have no problem keeping abortion out of health care. Planned Parenthood of New England expects state general funds to make up for the loss of federal funds; that will be up to Governor Sununu along with House and Senate members. We’ll be watching.”
According to its annual reports, Planned Parenthood treated 13,923 patients at clinics in Manchester, Keene, Derry, Exeter and Claremont during 2018.
Among those patients, 67 percent qualified as low-income in that they had incomes of $24,280 or less for a single person.
Manchester saw nearly half of all Planned Parenthood patients, 6,760, and 70 percent of its patients were low-income.
All Planned Parenthood clients pay on a sliding scale and no one is turned away.
The program gave $3.1 million worth of free or discounted services in 2018 and conducted 26,268 tests for STDs such as herpes, gonorrhea, chlamydia or syphilis according to the 2018 reports.
The Manchester clinic also provided by far the most abortion-related services, to 1,244 patients in 2018. The only other abortion-related services from Planned Parenthood were provided to 158 patients in the Keene clinic.
The annual report concludes 37 percent of care at the clinics was for family planning to include contraception and 7.5 percent was for abortion-related services.
Justice Department officials said Planned Parenthood and all other providers knew about this rule when they elected to take Title X money.
In a letter to the 9th Circuit Court where this issue is being fought in court, Justice Department lawyer Jaynie Lilley wrote, “Nothing in the rule will lead to the ‘expulsion from the Title X program’ of Planned Parenthood or any other grantee.”
“As relevant here, the rule merely requires grantees to refrain from providing referrals for abortions,” Lilley added. “If the seven Planned Parenthood direct grantees insist on providing abortion referrals even within a federally funded program, and feel so strongly that they would withdraw from the program and the public they serve, that is their own choice, not a consequence of the rule.”
State Senate President Donna Soucy, D-Manchester, said she remained hopeful lawmakers and Gov. Chris Sununu would reach a compromise on a state budget that provided state money to replace federal grants turned down over the gag rule.
“This is a hardship for health centers like Planned Parenthood that provide critical, affordable care like birth control and cancer screenings to thousands of Granite Staters. It’s clear these political decisions have real impacts on the health and well-being of New Hampshire citizens,” Soucy said in a statement.
”Senate Democrats stand with Planned Parenthood and other reproductive health providers who refuse to be bullied into providing substandard care to Granite Staters and we remain committed to addressing this health care emergency as budget negotiations continue.”
On Capitol Hill, the Democratically-led U.S. House has adopted a federal spending bill to try to block Trump’s gag rule, but there’s no indication pro-Planned Parenthood language has any life in the GOP-led Senate.
”I will continue to fight against this reckless and irresponsible assault on women’s health care led by President Trump and Republican leadership,” U.S. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., said in her own statement after Monday’s Planned Parenthood announcement.