Public funding for abortion up for debate in NH

Posted on April 5, 2012, April 5, 2012 by Holly Ramer

CONCORD, N.H.—Supporters of ending public funding for centers that provide elective abortions argued Thursday that doing so would give women an “upgrade in service at no additional cost,” while opponents said it could cost the state millions of dollars.

Under a bill before the Senate Health and Human Services Committee, taxpayer funding would be cut off to hospitals, clinics, doctors and others who perform elective abortions, even if private money is used to pay for the service.

Rep. Warren Groen of Rochester, one of the bill’s sponsors, told the committee that hospitals and other providers could still provide abortions if they create separate business entities to do so. He called the bill an attempt to use taxpayer money more efficiently by directing it toward facilities that provide a broader array of health care services.

Former U.S. Rep. Marilyn Musgrave, a Republican from Colorado, echoed those comments in her testimony, saying the bill would make it easier for women to be treated by providers who can serve all their health care needs, from dental care to cancer screenings.

“It represents the equivalent of a free upgrade to first class from coach in women’s health care,” said Musgrave, vice president of government affairs for the Susan B. Anthony List, an anti-abortion group.

But Jennifer Frizzell, senior policy adviser for Planned Parenthood of Northern New England, said that view shows a poor understanding of New Hampshire’s health care system.

“In five of those six locations where Planned Parenthood offers health services (in New Hampshire), there are no community health centers,” she said. “Some of the logic in the bill suggests that if you take funding from Medicaid and other critical women’s health programs away from Planned Parenthood, that there are other providers in the community that will step up to serve this population in a commensurate way. But we know that’s not the case.”

Lisabritt Solsky, New Hampshire’s deputy Medicaid director, said the bill could violate a federal provision that allows Medicaid recipients to receive services from any willing provider. She said the state might have to remove every Medicaid provider that performs abortions not exempted by the bill, which includes 24 of the state’s 26 acute care hospitals.

“There is already concern about the adequacy of our existing network and our access for our Medicaid members, and our worry is a bill such as this pours gasoline on the fire,” she said.

Posted in: New Hampshire