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N.H. Senate Panel Considers Bill To Cut Public Funding for Facilities Providing Abortion Care

N.H. Senate Panel Considers Bill To Cut Public Funding for Facilities Providing Abortion Care

April 6, 2012 — The New Hampshire Senate Health and Human Services Committee on Thursday held a hearing on legislation (HB 228) that would bar public funding for facilities that offer abortion services, NHPR reports. The bill already has passed the House and is expected to be voted on in the Senate later this session (Gotbaum, NHPR, 4/5).

The measure would apply to any health care provider that provides abortion care or refers a patient elsewhere for such services. The bill is based on "model legislation" promoted by Susan B. Anthony List (Timmins, Concord Monitor, 4/6).

Rep. Warren Groen (R), one of the bill's sponsors, told panel members that the bill is intended to force hospitals and other providers to separate their abortion-related operations from other services.

Lisabritt Solsky, New Hampshire's deputy Medicaid director, said the bill would be like pouring "gasoline on the fire" for the state's Medicaid program network. The measure could potentially affect 24 of the state's 26 acute-care hospitals, which would threaten access to medical services for Medicaid beneficiaries, she said (Ramer, AP/Foster's Daily Democrat, 4/6).

In addition, the bill could jeopardize the state's $700 million in matching federal Medicaid funds, State Health and Human Services Commissioner Nick Toumpas warned. In a letter to Sen. Jeb Bradley (R), chair of the Senate committee, Toumpas noted that federal law already prohibits federal funding from going to abortion care. Barring providers from referring patients for abortion services would violate federal law, he said, adding that similar legislation in Texas has already jeopardized their Medicaid funding.

Marilyn Musgrave, a spokesperson for Susan. B Anthony List, told the Senate committee that the bill is about prioritizing funds for women's health care. She argued that "abortion is not health care" (Concord Monitor, 4/6). Musgrave also argued that the bill would make it easier for women to receive care from providers who can provide more comprehensive services, such as dental care and cancer screenings (AP/Foster's Daily Democrat, 4/6).

However, Jennifer Frizzell, policy director for Planned Parenthood of Northern New England, said that abortion services represent just 3% to 5% of total health care services her organization provides to 16,000 New Hampshire residents. She said that no other health care provider would offer comparable services, adding, "For six out of 10 women, we are the primary source of their medical care" (Rayno, Union Leader, 4/5).