Sometimes in life you have to get a little lost before you are truly able to find your way.

New Hampshire Executive Councilman Hilaire

Last Wednesday the New Hampshire Executive Council voted 3-2 against a $1.8 million contract that has allowed Planned Parenthood of Northern New England (PPNNE) to provide health services to low-income patients for more than 30 years. (AP/Boston Globe, June 22, 2011) The services funded by this contract include cancer and sexually transmitted disease screening; family planning/reproductive health education;  and access to contraception. The council, composed of five men, approved every other family planning contract it considered. So why not the Planned Parenthood contract?…you guessed it – because (GASP!)…they also provide abortion services! (Though no state or federal money would, or ever has funded abortions at Planned Parenthood.) When asked why the contract was voted down, Councilor Dan St. Hilaire admitted that he “supports most family planning services but opposed awarding the contract to PPNNE because the organization provides abortion services.” (National Partnership for Women and Families, Daily Report)

Most people who do not support abortion refer to themselves as “pro-life.” (more accurately called anti-choice) So I find myself somewhat perplexed given that the services funded by the contract save lives. Call me crazy, but that sounds pretty “pro-life,” no? They also prevent unwanted pregnancies and decrease the number of abortions annually. But then again, I supposed it probably does make much more sense to deny PPNNE the opportunity to save lives and prevent unwanted pregnancies because…they also  provide abortion services…even though the contract doesn’t fund any of them….just the life-saving stuff. Hmmm…

Here’s the real problem. The weight of the political debate over abortion has so far exceeded the level of honest decision making that real, life-saving, crucial services are being denied, defunded, discredited and done away with. It is a sad testimony to the state of our politics and the credibility of our leaders that time and time again health, quality of life, and even life itself are victims of weak politicians jockeying for votes. Is being against abortion really more important than supporting health and life? For three members of the NH Executive Council, apparently the answer to that question is “yes.”

So what are some of the real outcomes? Undetected cancer that will kill. Untreated/undetected sexually transmitted diseases that will spread, some that will kill. Untold numbers of additional unwanted pregnancies. Increased abortions, many that will be done in back alleys or at home, with unspeakable outcomes. Some of these will end with both fetus and mother dead. Many women and girls will not have access to contraception prescribed for health reasons not even related to birth control (yes, the pill is actually a widely used treatment for many medical conditions!) PPNNE offered the following as an example of services that may no longer be available.

“The manager of our West Lebanon Health Center was recently asked what effect the loss of this contract would have on our services. She shared a story of a patient who visited a drug store to get birth control pills, only to learn they were $100 a pack. She couldn’t afford this cost, so she came to PPNNE. We told this patient that, based on her income, we could slide her pills down to $0 but we would take any donation she could give us. The patient pulled out a handful of change and counted out $1.37 in coins and said, “It’s not much, but I want you to have it.”

I said these services MAY no longer be available…the Council is being petitioned to reconsider their decision. In addition, PPNNE is seeking donations. If you’d like to make a tax-deductible gift to PPNNE’s Annual Fund, click here. If you can donate, donate. If you can’t afford to donate, but wish to voice your opinion to the Council, please call, fax, email, or visit them!  With enough support, the residents of New Hampshire, Vermont and Maine will continue to have access to affordable, critically important health services.

New Hampshire Executive Council
107 North Main Street
State House, Room 207
Concord, NH 03301

Phone: 603/271-3632               E-mail: gcweb@nh.gov

Fax: 603/271-3633                   Web site: www.nh.gov/council

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