CONCORD — The national president of Planned Parenthood visited New Hampshire on Monday, thanking members of the Granite State’s congressional delegation for their support of women’s health initiatives and their opposition to pending restrictions to a federal funding program set to take effect next month.
After touring a health center in Derry, Dr. Leana Wen spoke to a gathering at New England College’s Concord campus about the potential ramifications that a so-called domestic gag rule on Title X funding could have on millions of patients who rely on it for basic medical needs.
“Title X is our nation’s only program that’s dedicated to affordable reproductive health care, which includes primary and preventive services,” said Wen, who was joined by Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, Rep. Annie Kuster and Rep. Chris Pappas, all D-NH.
All spoke out against the Trump administration order that would bar providers, who perform or offer referrals for abortions, from receiving grants under Title X to pay for birth control and other family planning services for low-income patients.
Abortion opponents have lauded the rule as a way to keep federal taxpayer money from paying for abortions. Wen said the order, scheduled to take effect May 3, is far too broad and is an attack on women’s reproductive rights.
“This is the worst time to be taking away a critical component of the public health system,” Wen said. “This is the very definition of the government telling doctors what we can and cannot say to our patients. It’s unethical. It’s illegal and it’s harmful. Also, it’s outrageous.”
Planned Parenthood and the American Medical Association are among groups that are challenging the order in court, hoping for an intervention in the next two weeks.
“We have seen an alarming increase in fear mongering paired with policy that’s designed to deny women access to reproductive health care,” Shaheen said. “This domestic gag order is a backdoor attempt to undermine family planning and to block the delivery of reproductive care by barring necessary conversations between women and their doctors.”
Kuster noted that addiction screening and treatment referrals are among the services offered at the clinics. She also said the gag order has no place in a state proud of its “Live Free or Die” motto.
“This new rule is a direct attack on the low-income families who rely on Title X and it seeks to undermine the trust and transparency that is essential to relationships between patients and their healthcare providers,” Kuster said. “What the gag rule is really all about is inserting the government into your doctor’s office.”
Meagan Gallagher, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood of Northern New England, said the organization served more than 14,000 people at its five health centers in New Hampshire last year. More than 11,000 patients relied on Title X funding, she said.
Pappas, serving his first term in the U.S. House, referred to the proposal as “misguided” and dangerous.
“We should be increasing funding to address these challenges, not decreasing,” he said. “The bottom line is this — patients are going to be adversely impacted and harmed by this rule if it goes into effect.”
Wen thanked Shaheen, Kuster and Pappas for their support at a time when Planned Parenthood faces several other challenges, including a number of state legislatures passing more restrictive abortion regulations.
Wen said, “If the goal is to reduce unintended pregnancies and reduce the need for abortions, they should be investing in preventive care. Cutting Title X, which provides affordable birth control and preventive health services, will only have the opposite effect.”