Cutting funding could limit reproductive care accessible to low-income women, advocates say
Dalia Vidunas, executive director of the Equality Health Center, is concerned about the effect the newly signed state budget will have on women who visit her clinic.
Yes, she is concerned about a ban on abortions after 24 weeks of pregnancy and mandatory ultrasounds, but she is particularly focused on a loss of funding that could lead to longer wait times and fewer affordable options.
The Equality Health center provides care to low-income women who may not be able to afford it from most other providers. Vidunas, like many advocates for family planning centers, sees a looming financial shortfall due to a lack of federal grants due to Trump-era policies and a new state budget that further cuts funding .
By some estimates, there will be a shortfall of $ 1.2 million for NH family planning centers over the next few months.
“Our mobile fee scale starts at 250% of the poverty level, which could include people who work full time in places like Walmart,” she said. “We will have to change this because we will no longer have the means to do it.”
Several family planning centers lost funding after the Trump administration banned federally-funded clinics from discussing abortions or referring patients to abortion clinics.
Many centers, including Planned Parenthood of Northern New England, have chosen to opt out of the national family planning program, rather than abide by what they have called a “gag rule.”
In 2019, the state budget provided funds that made up for these losses.
However, this year, despite Democrats’ attempts to include the same funding for these family planning centers, the budget Governor Chris Sununu signed on Friday does not contain it.
The lapse will affect not only access to reproductive health care, but also other potentially life-saving procedures, advocates said at a panel discussion hosted by U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen on Friday morning.
The Biden administration is committed to overturning Trump-era restrictions on federal funding. However, this process will likely take more than six months. Shaheen said he wrote to the Department of Health and Human Services, asking for help finding other sources of financial support for family planning centers in the meantime.
Ken Gordon, CEO of Coos County Family Health Services, said reproductive health care often serves as a gateway to other important health services such as screenings for hypertension, breast cancer and cancer. cervix.
Greg White, CEO of Lamprey Health Care, told Nashua that barriers to healthcare will disproportionately affect people of color.
“We are very frustrated to have, in fact, legislated on a structural disparity in access to care,” he said.
He is also concerned that nurses, who are already scarce in New Hampshire, will be reluctant to apply to work in centers if funding appears uncertain.
The two-year state budget contains more than money.
Current legislation also includes language that would prohibit women from having an abortion after 24 weeks of pregnancy.
Late abortions like these are usually reserved for extreme situations in which the health of the mother is at risk or the fetus is not viable. Less than 1% of abortions are performed after 24 weeks of pregnancy, according to national data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Kayla Montgomery, vice president of public affairs for the Planned Parenthood NH Action Fund, said while the ban affects relatively few women at present, such legislation could give way to more drastic restrictions.
“The problem with taking away people’s reproductive freedoms is that it’s a very slippery slope,” she said.