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.

 

The state budget – and what comes after

You need to get out on those sidewalks outside where abortions are happening. Abortions aren’t going on in the halls of Congress. Abby Johnson once said this to a room full of New Hampshire activists. Another time, in a very brief exchange with me, she was impatient when I mentioned the political work to which I’m drawn. “Politics isn’t going to end this,” she said, “this” meaning abortion and all its detritus.

And yet I stay involved in politics. I know what happens when we concede the arena to politicians unwilling to accept or defend the right to life. More than once, I’ve heard “how did we get here?” from stunned neighbors who have just realized how abortion-friendly is our state’s political culture.

One vote at a time, that’s how. Course correction will come the same way.

So what does this have to do with the state budget? First, the last budget proposal was not encouraging as far as the right to life and conscience rights are concerned. Second, I need to remember that passage of an abortion-friendly state budget will need to be met with something more than hand-wringing.

Year in and year out, the budget is dominated by health and human services spending. Yet without a systemic commitment to the right to life – not something assigned as a privilege, but recognized as a right – then all the spending is just so much vote-buying, swaying with the vagaries of political fashion.

I see much online cheering for the final implementation of the federal rule barring abortion providers from getting Title X family planning funds. At the risk of being the skunk at the garden party, I’ll remind you that the proposed state budget passed by the New Hampshire House and Senate includes a dramatic increase in family planning money from state general funds, to offset any loss of federal funds to abortion providers who are also Title X contractors.

And then there’s the line in the House/Senate budget that repeals the previous prohibition on the use of state general funds for abortion.

Yes, Governor Sununu vetoed that budget. He never cited the abortion language as a reason, although he found plenty else to complain about. Reports on recent budget negotiations include nothing about removing the abortion language.

The Governor does not have line-item veto power in New Hampshire. It’s all-or-nothing when it comes to the budget. I am sure neither the Governor nor any of his staffers will dispute me when I say that he unlikely to veto a budget over abortion funding, if negotiations resolve all his other concerns.

(Pending a resolution of the budget impasse, the state is operating on a continuing resolution that basically continues spending at the same level on the same items as the last budget, which expired on June 30. The government is not shut down.)

So here we are, in the political position New Hampshire pro-lifers know best: underfoot. This brings me back to that sharp reminder I got from Abby Johnson: politics isn’t going to end the carnage – not by itself, anyway. I’m not suggesting taxpayer funding for abortion and abortion providers is unimportant. I am saying that whatever the state budget eventually looks like, good or bad, the most important pro-life work is going to go on without regard to any negotiations at the State House.

After the state budget is signed, pregnancy care centers are still going to be going about their business. They need volunteers, board members, executive directors, medical staffers. They need diapers and wipes and car seats and office supplies. You don’t need to vote for that. You can just do it.

After the budget is signed, we’re still going to have – eventually – a loved one or a neighbor or a child’s classmate who’ll face pregnancy and won’t know where to turn. You can be a voice of hope. You don’t need to sport an “I voted” sticker to do that.

After the budget is signed, bigotry against people with disabilities will still be real and dangerous. The attitude “better dead than disabled” will need pushback over and over again. Babies diagnosed in utero with disabilities will be at risk of “termination” on those grounds alone. You can demonstrate how to affirm human dignity, particularly if you’re living with disability or an adverse diagnosis. You might want to share your story with one of your elected officials, because nothing beats a personal story to get a message across.

After the budget is signed, you might still be called to be a peaceful pro-life witness in a public place. You might be called to put your professional skill at the service of life-affirming ministries. You might be called to a routine of prayer that’s new to you.

Imagine all this going on regardless of who’s in charge at the State House or who’s rallying outside a hearing. Now open your eyes: it’s all happening.

Let’s encourage each other.

State Budget: how much for abortion providers?

(Update, 5/27/17: The latest Center for Medical Progress video has been taken down by YouTube, and so it is unavailable where I had originally linked to it below. Instead, you can view CMP’s previous videos at this link. Watch them before the next budget vote.)

The New Hampshire Senate will vote next week on the budget proposal prepared by the Senate Finance Committee. Whatever the Senate passes will go to the House the next day.

Under the Senate proposal, would any of the money allocated to the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) go to abortion providers? Would abortion providers still be in line for family planning contracts?

Maybe. The proposed Senate budget language says no state funds can go to abortion providers for abortion services.  I have seen the draft of an amendment that would prevent state funds from going to abortion providers, period.

Stay tuned. In the meantime, the Center for Medical Progress has released another video of Planned Parenthood’s abortion providers discussing their work. No bloody-baby pictures here; just words. It’s a safe bet that the affiliates mentioned in the video operate with the help of taxpayers.

I can’t link directly to YouTube for the video, since YouTube took it down – but not before some viewers found a way to share it. A Leaven reader was kind enough to point me to the Facebook account Another Boy (@babiesbetrayed), where the video is available. I hope the link is still live as you read this.

 

Follow the money: family planning in the state budget proposal

A reader has kindly alerted me to the “family planning” line item in the proposed New Hampshire budget, due for a vote in the House tomorrow, April 5.

A bit of background: some of the family planning contractors in our state are abortion providers, who come to the Executive Council threatening denial of services to patients if the Council doesn’t hand over the money. Those providers keep saying that family planning money – specifically Title X money, awarded to states by the federal government – can’t be used for abortions. The same providers then press members of Congress to repeal the Hyde Amendment, which is all that stands between Title X and abortion.

As New Hampshire HHS Commissioner Meyers told the Executive Council in 2016,  family planning grants help pay for abortion providers’ “infrastructure,” also known as overhead costs.

But anyway, back to family planning, now that we know where abortion providers fit in.

Into the Weeds: Page 1191

Here’s a picture of page 1191 from the report prepared by the Office of Legislative Budget Assistant, comparing New Hampshire budget family planning allocations from fiscal years 2016 through 2019. This looks at past spending, plus projections for the next biennium. The “Governor” column reflects the budget request made by Governor Sununu. “H Finance” means House Finance Committee, and it’s the Finance Committee’s proposal that’s getting a House vote this week.

Numbers Get Larger

Look at the “contracts for program services” line. The numbers grow from about a million bucks in FY 2016 to a projected $1.5 million in FY 2019, or to $1.8 million if the House Finance Committee’s request goes through. That’s quite an increase.

The general fund line near the bottom indicates how much money comes directly from state coffers. Again, there’s a projected increase.

Right above that is the gold mine: federal funds. These are grants, including but not limited to Title X, that flow from Washington to Concord for use in specific programs. (And they are tax dollars, just like the money from the state general fund.) In FY 2016, federal family planning money for New Hampshire came to around $700,000.  For FY 2019, the governor expects $1.1 million while House Finance expects $1.4 million.

How many other New Hampshire health and human services needs are getting that kind of boost in this budget?

Looking ahead

I’ve emailed the federal HHS department in the hope that someone there can show me data to support those projected federal numbers for FYs 2018 and 2019. The reader who suggested I take a look at the family planning budget tried that already and got an unsatisfactory answer. I’m not going to bet on getting an answer before the state budget is passed and signed.

At any rate, we’re getting a preview of Executive Council meetings yet to come. Whatever amount is approved for family planning in the next biennium, the “contracts for program services” will go through the Council. The usual contractors, including abortion providers, will be there for a piece of the ever-growing pie.