Budget compromise on abortion funding: no direct, plenty of indirect

Edited 9/28/19: Governor’s signing is still pending, awaiting the bill’s enrollment process.

As of September 25, New Hampshire has a new budget for the coming biennium. In a compromise overwhelmingly approved by legislators and soon to be signed by Governor Sununu, the budget includes language preventing the direct funding of abortion using state dollars.

Or rather, more-or-less preventing. More on that below. But for now, my hat’s off to the House and Senate minority leadership teams (GOP) who refused to cave in to the majority’s desire to open the door to direct funding.

Direct abortion funding: not this time

No direct funding: that’s a depressingly low bar to clear. I work and pray for the day when there’s no need to jump for joy over something that ought to be fundamental policy. I likewise work and pray for the day when no party thinks direct funding is a good idea.

In the no-direct-funding provision, budget negotiators added a sneaky little clause that bears watching (emphasis added):  “Unless specifically appropriated in the biennial budget, no state funds awarded by the department of health and human services to a reproductive health care facility, as defined in RSA 132:37, I, shall be used to provide abortion services.”

There should be no “unless.”

In any case, the no-direct-funding provision was welcomed by Governor Sununu, who continues to draw a line between funding abortion and funding abortion providers.

indirect abortion funding: more than ever

The political trade-off for getting the no-direct-funding language was to hand additional funds to the state’s largest abortion provider. You can see why I haven’t used the word “victory” to describe the budget compromise.

Every public dollar that goes to an abortion provider, even for non-abortion work, helps keep the abortion side of the business going.

In an earlier post, I outlined the situation with Title X federal family planning funds in the state budget. Several New Hampshire family planning contractors are also abortion providers, principally Planned Parenthood of Northern New England. When the federal government recently enacted the Protect Life Rule barring abortion providers from receiving Title X funds, PPNNE announced that it would leave the federal Title X program rather than give up doing abortions.

In the state budget compromise, there’s a huge increase in the family planning appropriation from the state general fund, compared to last biennium’s budget. That increase exists to offset PPNNE’s “loss” of federal funds under the Protect Life Rule. PPNNE and a few smaller contractors voluntarily surrendered those federal dollars in order to keep their abortion businesses going.

In other words, abortion providers will now get more state dollars precisely because they’re abortion providers. The dollars are appropriated for “family planning,” but the increase over the previous biennium isn’t going to the Title X contractors who are abortion-free. The increase is going to the abortion providers.

And that’s what political compromise looks like this week. “It’s the best we’re going to get,” I was told by a source close to the negotiations. That’s true, for now.

More on State Budget and Abortion Funding: Keep Those Messages Going

The New Hampshire House will meet later this week, September 18 and 19, with the Senate meeting on the 19th. On the agenda: votes to sustain or override each of the Governor’s 50+ vetoes. At stake is the use of state general funds, i.e. taxpayer dollars, for direct and indirect funding of abortion.

Set out below are the reasons why it’s important to contact state representatives, state senators, and Governor Sununu with the clear unambiguous message: no public funding, direct or indirect, for abortion. That means sustaining the Governor’s veto of the state budget, and fighting to keep abortion out of any subsequent negotiated budget.

Governor Sununu has said reassuring things about direct funding of abortion. That is not the case about indirect funding, in which public dollars go to abortion providers purportedly for non-abortion work. Perhaps you have heard similar messages and non-messages from your own representatives.

At the heart of the matter: the state budget

The abortion funding question arises from Governor Sununu’s veto of the proposed state budget (see this blog’s earlier report). Enough concerned citizens have reached out to the Governor over the summer about this that his office has produced a form letter about it.

Thank you for contacting my office regarding abortion in New Hampshire. As Governor it has always been incredibly important to me to hear directly from Granite Staters on matters of great importance to them.

It is important for you to know that I have always opposed taxpayer funding of abortion, and have supported common-sense measures such as parental notification and the late-term abortion ban. In the past, I also supported legislative actions such as the Fetal Homicide Bill, Women’s Health Protection Act, and the Healthcare Freedom of Conscience Act.

Please let us know your thoughts and ideas on this important issue as we move forward, and please do not hesitate to contact my office should you have concerns in the future.

Sincerely,

Christopher T. Sununu, Governor

(The only bill the Governor mentions that he actually signed is fetal homicide. Parental notification was already in place when he was elected, and bills regarding the other policies he mentioned have not made it out of the legislature.)

I’ll send a thank-you to the Governor for his letter. I’ll mention that I expect an equally forthright answer on giving money to abortion providers.

Indirect funding: reinforcing an abortion-first business model

The state budget Governor Sununu vetoed included a dramatic increase in funding for family planning. Has there been some kind of spike in the rate of unexpected pregnancy in New Hampshire? Nope. The increase is about abortion.

The proposed increase is to compensate family planning providers who are also abortion providers and who are losing federal funds by refusing to stop doing abortion work.

Title X (Ten) is a federal family planning program that grants money to states for family planning work, allowing the states to choose the contractors to actually carry out the family planning programs. Title X funds have never been allowed for direct abortion. Beginning last month, under a new federal provision called the Protect Life Rule, no Title X funds may go to abortion providers. The total amount of Title X money is not reduced by the Protect Life Rule. That money is available to contractors who don’t do abortions.

As explained by Cornerstone Action (a nonprofit for which I’m communications consultant), “This recognizes the fact that there is no practical difference between funding abortion and funding abortion providers. Every public dollar that goes to an abortion provider for non-abortion work helps to subsidize the abortion side of the business, by means of overhead such as facilities, equipment, utilities, and staffing.”

Planned Parenthood of Northern New England announced that it would drop out of New Hampshire’s Title X program rather than stop doing abortions. The other two freestanding abortion facilities followed suit, and even a few public health agencies that do not provide abortions joined in, out of a misplaced solidarity with abortion providers.

So much for patients relying on Title X programs. They are elbowed aside as their providers carry abortion work to the head of the priority list.

Cornerstone’s explanation of the Protect Life Rule bears reading in full. Here’s another excerpt:

The Protect Life Rule does not reduce the amount of family planning money coming from the federal government. At the same time, it respects the conscience rights of everyone who recognizes that abortion is not health care and that each abortion ends a human life. 

Planned Parenthood and other abortion providers have had it both ways in the past, providing abortion and federally-subsidized family planning under the same roof. They oppose the Protect Life Rule. Their message to you is, “Shut up and pay. We’ve got a business to run.”

…PPNNE calls the Protect Life Rule a “gag rule,” saying it inhibits communication between patients and providers. In fact, all the new rule inhibits is the ability of abortion providers to use public money, including indirectly, to perform, refer or promote abortion. 

Messages now

I’m going to email the Governor, thank him for his stand on direct funding, and urge him to be just as firm on indirect funding.

I’m going to email or call my senator and representatives, asking them to uphold the Governor’s veto of the state budget. I’ll ask them to oppose any direct or indirect funding of abortion.

Some of them might come back at me and tell me this is about health care. No, it isn’t. It’s about abortion, and abortion is not health care. Any provider who says it can’t provide family planning services because of a loss of Title X funds needs to be reminded that it lost those funds because it put abortion first in its business model.

 

How hard is it not to fund abortion providers?

I don’t want to fund abortion providers by way of my tax dollars. Health care, yes; abortion, no; and there’s no such thing as avoiding the commingling of dollars when health care and abortion go on in the same building. Perhaps you agree.

Our state government doesn’t care, with all political parties in on the action. Abortion providers are so embedded in the state Department of Health and Human Services and in the Executive Council that the conscience rights of abortion resisters are in the toilet.

This is much on my mind this morning as I discover that the Executive Council and DHHS pulled a fast one recently. At the last Executive Council meeting, there was a contract item for renewal and supplemental funding of family planning contracts. That’s always a feed bag for abortion providers, so I clicked on the contract to check out the details. (You too can do a deep dive into any Council agenda; just click on the hyperlinked number next to any agenda item to get a look at the full contract in question.)

What I found was that numerous contractors had their contracts renewed – but the ones with abortion providers were not included. Hooray, right?

Wrong. I missed a “late item” added to the agenda after the public posting of the original.

How late was the late item? The day before the actual Council meeting. What was the late item? Adding the abortion providers back into the contract renewal. Contract extension amounts: $179,800 to the Equality Center in Concord, $222,896 to the Lovering Center in Greenland, and $548,000 to Planned Parenthood of Northern New England.

Speculate as you please on why that item was posted “late.” The contract extension passed.

State money or federal? Makes no difference as far as which of my pockets is picked. As the contract says, “Source of Funds: 52% Federal Funds from the Office of Population Affairs; US Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children and Families, and 48% General Funds.” General Funds refers to money from the New Hampshire state budget.

This week’s Executive Council meeting includes an agenda item giving even more money to abortion providers, this time for HIV intervention programs. It’s another contract renewal and extension, with the funding source listed as 17% federal and 83% “other funds.” (How’s that for transparency?) If the Council approves the contract extension, the Equality Center will get an additional $150,000 while PPNNE will get an additional $242,500.

Would anyone be denied authentic health care services if abortion providers were excluded from the contract process? Only if abortion providers refuse to change their business model, which relies on mislabeling abortion as health care.

The latest PPNNE audited financial statement I’ve seen online is dated May 24, 2018, covering the year ending December 31, 2017. Amount spent on public policy: $1,626,944. Marketing and communication: $209,744. Fundraising: $1,165,984.

That’s three million dollars for non-clinical promotional work. The state contracts are peanuts by comparison. But neither PPNNE nor any other abortion provider will let you off the hook. Neither will the commissioner of DHHS or the Executive Council. You’re funding abortion providers whether you want to or not.

As for elections having consequences, this is all happening regardless of which party has a majority or holds the corner office. I’m looking forward to seeing if the Republican governor re-appoints the DHHS commissioner when his term expires next January.

I’m also wondering whether that Republican governor will sign a state budget soon that repeals an existing prohibition on state funds being used for abortion. He vetoed the first attempt at a budget a couple of weeks ago, citing umpteen reasons but not mentioning abortion funding. Hmmm.

As for subsidizing abortion by way of giving money to abortion providers, taxpayers are going to have a hard time divesting. A key question in any public policy debate is who wants it more? Victories are going to come piecemeal. The big ones won’t come from Executive Council votes. They’ll come from making abortion providers ineligible for your money when contracts are put out to bid in the first place.

You’ll Be Paying for Abortion, If Proposed State Budget Passes

New Hampshire House and Senate conferees trying to agree on a state budget have agreed on one thing: everyone who pays taxes in New Hampshire will be funding unrestricted abortion if this budget passes.

The conference committee has OK’d the removal of budget language which in past budgets has limited the use of state funds for abortion.

The N.H. Senate voted to repeal language limiting abortion funding, and a House-Senate conference committee has endorsed that move.

House and Senate will vote on a state budget proposal June 27. The Governor will then decide whether to sign or veto the budget. A veto would likely lead to a legislative continuing resolution, basically a state-spending holding pattern, until agreement is reached on a new budget.

Governor Sununu has expressed in every way available to him that he will veto the budget as it currently stands, due to new taxes and excessive spending. He has not mentioned abortion funding as a reason for a possible veto.

Abortion funding is not a bargaining chip. It’s a dealbreaker. Perhaps no one has told him so yet. His office number is (603) 271-2121. The budget isn’t on his desk yet, but it’s coming.

House and Senate members need to get the same message before June 27.

Hyde amendment language

The language at risk of repeal in New Hampshire is based on the federal Hyde Amendment, which has been added to every federal Department of Health and Human Services budget since 1976. This funding limitation has prevented the use of federal DHHS funds for abortion, with exceptions for pregnancies from rape and incest.

Essentially, that has been the New Hampshire policy. Children conceived in violence can be aborted at public expense, but New Hampshire taxpayers have not yet been ordered to pay for abortions in other circumstances.

Abortion advocates have worked diligently for years at state and federal levels to undermine Hyde Amendment language, saying that it restricts health care access for poor women.

Anyone opposing restrictions on public funding for abortion is therefore adopting the fiction that abortion is health care. That goes for anyone who votes for a budget containing abortion funding, even if it’s a “compromise” budget.

sununu’s past funding decisions

As Executive Councilor, Chris Sununu voted in 2011 and 2016 to give family planning contracts to abortion providers including Planned Parenthood of Northern New England, the Equality Center in Concord, and the Lovering Center in Greenland. Calling himself pro-choice, he drew a distinction: no to compelling taxpayers to fund abortion directly; yes to funding abortion providers for non-abortion work.

In August 2015, Sununu voted against a state contract with PPNNE, expressing concerns over revelations of some PP affiliates’ commerce in body parts from aborted fetuses. Ten months later, in an unprecented do-over on the same contracts, he flipped, saying that PP was no longer under investigation.

Elections have consequences?

There is no elected New Hampshire Democrat on the state level who supports restrictions on taxpayer funding of abortion.

Then again, there is no elected New Hampshire Republican on the state level who has announced that she or he will vote against the proposed budget for the reason that public funding for abortion is inconsistent with respect for human life, authentic health care, and conscience rights.

Hyde saves lives

Looking at the federal Hyde Amendment, Secular Pro-Life celebrated the amendment’s 40th anniversary in 2012. Its #HelloHyde campaign highlighted the people who were born, not aborted, when their mothers were covered by Medicaid.

The Hyde Amendment’s life-saving impact is hard to overstate. Both supporters and opponents agree that the Hyde Amendment has prevented over a million abortions. The disagreement, sad to say, is over whether that’s a good thing.

http://www.hellohyde.org/1-in-9/

more funding = more abortion

In April of this year, Michael J. New, Ph.D. of the Charlotte Lozier Institute wrote about Maine’s move to fund abortion with state dollars. He observed something that holds true anywhere public money is used for abortion.

There is a considerable amount of debate among scholars about various aspects of abortion policy. However, when it comes to the issue of taxpayer subsidies, there is a very broad consensus among both pro-life and pro-choice researchers that funding abortion through Medicaid significantly increases abortion rates. In 2009, the Guttmacher Institute–which was Planned Parenthood’s research arm until 2007–published a literature review on the research about public funding of abortion. They found that 19 of 22 studies found taxpayer funding of abortion increases the incidence of abortion.

https://lozierinstitute.org/hundreds-of-innocent-lives-depend-on-the-maine-state-legislature/

Your Tax Dollars At Work: $600K for PPNNE

With a nod to Cornerstone Action, and with full disclosure that I’m a Cornerstone communications consultant, let me link you to this morning’s headline from the Cornerstone blog: “Title X Grantees Announced.” Among the recipients of this federally-disbursed family planning money, with no messy intermediate stop at the New Hampshire Executive Council: Planned Parenthood of Northern New England.

From Cornerstone’s post:

[The federal Department of Health and Human Services] has announced grant awards for Title X family planning funds for the grant period of April 1st  2019- March 31st  2020 and Planned Parenthood of Northern New England will be the recipient of $600,000 of taxpayer money.

As you may recall, President Trump’s new rule was rumored to prohibit federal taxpayer dollars to go to organizations that promote and administer abortion as a form of birth control.

…Not satisfied with federal dollars, Planned Parenthood continues their fight to secure your state taxpayer dollars 

https://www.nhcornerstone.org/latest-news/title-x-grantees-announced/

This round of 90 family planning grants for fiscal year 2019 does include some recipients of an abortion-free persuasion who had not received Title X money before, and it includes as always a lot of federally-qualified health centers which do not perform abortions. But please, don’t let anyone tell you that abortion providers have been cut out of Title X. It just ain’t so.

Quick review: Title X [that’s Roman numeral ten, not letter X] is a federal program that funds “family planning” efforts. Title X funds, while federal, are usually block-granted to states, and the states decide which contractors can most effectively carry out the Title X requirements. Abortion is explicitly excluded from Title X activity.

That’s how it’s usually (not always) done in New Hampshire, with the state Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) receiving the federal money, then seeking bids from contractors and submitting the resulting contracts to the Executive Council for approval. It’s common for up to eleven contracts to be awarded in New Hampshire, with each contractor covering a different part of the state. Most of the contractors are federally-qualified health centers, but three are abortion providers: the Equality Center in Concord, the Lovering Center in Greenland, and PPNNE.

Each of those abortion providers solemnly swears as part of the Title X contract that none of the money will be used for abortion. That’s the extent of the firewall. To my knowledge, no one has figured out how to divvy up the money between the abortion and non-abortion use for the utilities, equipment, office space, and staffing of a facility.

Therefore, taxpayers wanting to divest completely from involvement in the abortion industry are out of luck. You’d think a $23 million agency like PPNNE could figure out a way to separate out abortion from authentic health care: separate facilities, staff, accounts. But no. You’ve got civil rights, but the right not to subsidize abortion providers isn’t on the list.

There are two New Hampshire grantees in the latest round announced by the feds: the state HHS department, which will get $800,000 for Title X, and PPNNE, which has a $600,000 grant all to itself.

from https://www.hhs.gov/opa/grants-and-funding/recent-grant-awards/index.html

The state HHS grant for Title X will go through the usual state contract bidding process, ending with an Executive Council vote that will probably hand over the money to the usual contractors. (I’m guessing a 4-1 vote, but don’t hold me to that.)

The PPNNE Title X grant, on the other hand, goes directly to PPNNE. Does that mean PPNNE won’t reach for more money from general funds in the state budget, now being drafted? Big fat “no.” Check out this Concord Monitor article from last weekend.

Don’t blame one political party over another. There’s plenty of responsibility to go around. You can start by letting the President know what you think of the handouts from the federal HHS department. It’s an executive agency, and he’s Chief Executive.