Abortion, the 1st Amendment, and Your Money: Fresh News, Same Old Story

The Trump Administration has announced a proposed rule that would prevent federal Title X family planning money from going to abortion providers. That’s “proposed.” It’s a long road from announcement to implementation. Pro-lifers are cheering as though it’s a done deal, and abortion providers are screaming as only people who’ve been hit in the wallet can scream.

Take a breath, folks. The proposed rule is good news. It would protect taxpayers from involvement in the abortion industry. But the rule is not in place yet, and may never be. Continue reading “Abortion, the 1st Amendment, and Your Money: Fresh News, Same Old Story”

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.

 



A good vote in D.C. (opposed by both N.H. Senators)

Vice-President Pence broke a tie in the U.S. Senate yesterday. What passed, thanks to him and 50 Senators, was effectively a repeal of an Obama policy penalizing states that refuse to do business with abortion providers. H.J. Res. 43 is the name of the repeal resolution.

Senators Shaheen and Hassan of New Hampshire were perfectly happy with the Obama policy and they voted against the repeal.


The former president signed his policy on his way out the door, almost literally: it went into effect two days before he left office. Marjorie Dannenfelser of the Susan B. Anthony list has called it his parting gift to Planned Parenthood. Last month the House, led by Rep. Diane Black, voted to repeal Obama’s policy. The Senate effort was led by Sen. Joni Ernst.

I hope that by the time you read this, President Trump’s approval will have made repeal a done deal.

What repeal does NOT do: change the amount of any appropriation for family planning under Title X. Repeat: zero effect on the amount of money the federal government allocates to states for family planning programs (which, to hear some folks talk, is all there is to women’s health).

What repeal WILL do: allow states to decide for themselves, without any federal penalty, whether to grant Title X family planning contracts to agencies that perform abortions.

That’s it.

Planned Parenthood hates the repeal resolution. Their respect for women apparently ends when a woman decides to resist the abortion providers reaching into her wallet.

I’m one such woman. I know that abortion isn’t health care. And I’m not alone.

 

PP funding in NH: another end run?

An astute reader left a comment on my last post.

“…are we sure the Executive Council is going to be the decision making body about who gets the NH contract? Didn’t Planned Parenthood orchestrate a by-pass on the NH Executive Council vote against their NH contract during the construction of the previous NH budget?”

State House, Concord NH
From here …
visitthecapitol.gov photo
…to here? (visitthecapitol.gov photo)

 

 

No, we’re not sure. And yes, PPNNE did an end run around a state family planning contract rejection in 2011 by somehow procuring funds directly from the federal government. Regarding that nimble move, the New Hampshire Commissioner of Health and Human Services remarked in 2013, “It’s not appropriate for me to know what they did.”

All we know about the current situation is that the New Hampshire Executive Council has no PP item on its agenda for next Wednesday’s meeting, and that the last PP contract approved by the Council was set to expire eighteen days ago. (What’s more, PPNNE isn’t complaining that “women are being denied health care.”) Late items may be added to the agenda, as the Council’s agenda page indicates. Anything about a future contract or grant is speculative at this point. But if we can’t see into the future, we can certainly look at the past.

Planned Parenthood affiliates nationwide are feeling the heat from the video of a PP medical director chatting about procurement of intact fetal organs. PP’s public funding is under a spotlight, for now. Public dollars are not used for abortion, we’re told. Instead, tax money for “family planning” frees up other PP resources to use for abortions, and the harvesting of fetal organs, and salaries of medical personnel willing to consider changing an abortion method not for the health of the woman but for the better extraction of a child’s organs.

But a state contract or federal grant to PP doesn’t mean I’m paying for abortion itself – just so we’re clear on that. Whew.


As long as we’re seeking clarity, note this: New Hampshire Right to Life has been fighting for years to get information about how a federal grant materialized for PPNNE after three out of five Executive Councilors said “no” to PP’s Title X contract in 2011. (The Council the same day approved contracts with ten other providers, putting a crimp in attempts to cast Councilors as anti-woman.) In April of this year, NHRTL filed a petition with the U.S. Supreme Court seeking review of a lower court decision that turned away in part an NHRTL Freedom of Information Act request about the federal grant. Bits and pieces of information have emerged, but the whole clear story of how the dollars got from the feds to PP is still not on the public record.

This doesn’t mean that history will repeat itself this month. It only means the precedent has been set.

~~~~~

This is as good a time as any to recall the time four years ago just after the Executive Council vote, when Planned Parenthood put enormous public pressure on the three Councilors who had denied them a contract. At that time, I was with New Hampshire’s Cornerstone Policy Research. We teamed up with the Susan B. Anthony List for a press conference to defend the Councilors. That was the day I met Catherine Adair, who spoke to the crowd about her experience as a PP employee. Here’s a reminder that the need to let taxpayers divest their funds from PP didn’t just spring up this week.

 

 

 

Remember this about Dave Wheeler

Dave Wheeler is running for New Hampshire’s Executive Council in district 5, a seat he has held before. He has a primary opponent whom I haven’t met and about whom I know little. I’m not writing today to make comparisons. This is about Dave.

I’ve known him for many years, going back to the days when he was a state rep from Milford. I could tell you about how he helped me long ago when I had to learn in a hurry how to deal with a state agency. I could tell you how when you elect him, you get his wife Joy as a bonus – just as tart and blunt and dedicated to the community as her husband. I could recommend that you check out the Wheelers’ Miracle Acres Farm for your next Christmas tree.

Another time, maybe, but not now. I want to make sure you remember one thing in particular that he did last time the voters of district 5 sent him to Concord: he stood up to Planned Parenthood. With two of his colleagues, he denied PP a Title X family-planning contract in 2011. (Ten other Title X contracts were approved that day, all with contractors who didn’t double as abortion providers.) It wasn’t Dave Wheeler’s first pro-life vote, but it was a particularly emphatic one. As a result, PP made a priority of hammering him in the 2012 election. He lost the seat, 52.5%-47.5%.

From a 2011 event (l-r): Kevin Smith, Ray Wieczorek, Dan St. Hilaire, Dave Wheeler, Ellen Kolb (photo by Matthew Lomanno, www.matthewlomanno.com)
From a 2011 event (l-r): Kevin Smith of Cornerstone; executive councilors Ray Wieczorek, Dan St. Hilaire, & Dave Wheeler; Ellen Kolb (photo by Matthew Lomanno, www.matthewlomanno.com)

With his vote on the PP contract, Dave was doing what he was elected to do: read the fine print, ask questions, look hard at private agencies that rely on an uninterrupted flow of taxpayer dollars. It’s sad that the councilors elected in 2012 went back to business with New Hampshire’s premier abortion provider when the next round of Title X contracts came up in 2013.

The photo in this post is from 2011, taken at an event related to my day job. Dave is the tall gentleman towards the right. At the event, it was my privilege to present an award to the councilors who rejected that PP contract.  Two of them have since retired. Only Dave Wheeler is left in the arena. Here’s an excerpt from what I said that evening as I made the presentation. Those councilors set a high bar for their successors. Think about this when you look at candidates for the Executive Council.

One morning in June 2011, I was in the Senate gallery awaiting a vote on the parental notification bill when someone quietly advised me that the Executive Council, by a vote of 3-2, had just rejected a $1.2 million contract with Planned Parenthood of Northern New England. This was a shock to me, because I knew this had always been a routine Title Ten contract. Regrettably, the state has done business with PP for years.

With an annual budget of $18 million, PPNNE is New Hampshire’s principal abortion provider. When asked at a public hearing [in 2011] if they’d forgo providing abortion services as a condition to receive public funding, their answer was an emphatic “no.” Despite claims by PP that government funding is vital to providing certain essential services, according to their own 2009 annual report PPNNE spends over $3 million on administration and general costs, $597,000 on marketing and $714,000 on public policy which includes lobbyists. After the council vote, PP went so far as to launch a publicity campaign attacking the three councilors who voted down the contract. Pink t-shirts and lawn signs appeared, saying “I Stand With PP,” paid for by PP.

Planned Parenthood chose not to divert one penny from administration, marketing or public policy to compensate for the loss of taxpayer funds. When it came down to a choice between providing health care and distributing pink lawn signs, they went with the lawn signs.That was not a political decision forced by any executive councilor. That was a PP policy decision that ill befits a state contractor.

It’s worth noting that ten other Title Ten contracts were approved the same day PP’s was rejected – hardly the action of a council determined to deny health care to anyone. These contracts usually fly under the radar for most of us. It’s to their credit that these three councilors didn’t let that happen.

Now in 2014, Dave Wheeler is back. It’ll take more than a bunch of pink lawn signs to scare him off. I wonder if that’s true about the other candidates on the ballot.