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Biden administration ends Title X ‘gag rule’ that affected New Hampshire family planning centers

Abortion Rally Concord.jpg
Sarah Gibson
New Hampshire Public Radio
A recent rally in Concord protested recent abortion bans in Texas and new abortion restrictions signed into law by Gov. Chris Sununu.

The Biden administration on Monday cleared the way for low-cost reproductive health care providers recently defunded by the Executive Council to reclaim federal funding they lost under a Trump administration “gag rule.”

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Most of the state’s low-cost reproductive health care providers left the Title X program after a rule change prohibited them from referring patients seeking abortions, a decision that cost them funding for the bulk of their care, such as cancer screenings, birth control, and treatment for sexually transmitted diseases. (Federal and state laws already prohibit them from using taxpayer dollars to perform abortions.)

This story was first published in New Hampshire Bulletin.

While federal funding isn’t expected to return until spring, the rule change was welcomed by the health care centers, which provide care for nearly 15,000 low-income Granite Staters. This year, those centers saw the Legislature eliminate stopgap funding to replace the lost Title X money and Republicans on the Executive Council defund federal contracts.

The loss of Title X money alone led to 31 to 40 percent fewer clientsin New Hampshire being served, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

“In the past few months, New Hampshire’s state politicians have waged a full-on assault against New Hampshire family planning providers, as state budget writers did not address the loss in federal funds and the Executive Council dismantled the state Family Planning Program by defunding reproductive health centers,” said Kayla Montgomery of Planned Parenthood of Northern New England and the Planned Parenthood New Hampshire Action Fund. “This announcement from the Biden administration to end the gag rule is welcome news and will have a real and tangible impact on patients seeking sexual and reproductive health care right here in New Hampshire.”

Sen. Jeanne Shaheen led the federal delegation’s effort to overturn the rule.

“The restoration of Title X funding will deliver critical funding to family planning providers across the state so they can provide a range of essential health care – like cancer screenings and maternal health services – to Granite State women,” she said in a statement. “Public dollars do not go to abortions – this is a fallacy that’s been perpetuated by Republican lawmakers to try to regulate women’s bodies and personal health decisions.”

The providers that left the Title X program during the Trump administration must now reapply; the three largest are Planned Parenthood of Northern New England, Equality Health Center, and Lovering Health Center, but several others in the state’s Family Planning Program did as well.

Providers opposed to abortion can still decline to make referrals to abortion providers, an option that was in place prior to the Trump administration's changes to Title X rules. The federal Health and Human Services office said this option complies with existing federal “conscience and religious freedom” laws.

New Hampshire Bulletin is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. New Hampshire Bulletin maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Dana Wormald for questions: Follow New Hampshire Bulletin on Facebook and Twitter.

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