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Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Shaheen stresses women's healthcare cuts in GOP budget

DOVER - Women's health providers have been outspoken of late about measures in the national Republican spending plan, which is before the U.S. Senate for a vote today.

Advocates say it threatens funding and puts their ability to continue services in jeopardy.

U.S. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., held a conference call with reporters Tuesday opposing such measures, which she called "an unacceptable attack on a women's right to health care."

The federal budget proposal, HR 1, would eliminate all $317.5 million in Title X funding nationally, which equates to about $1.4 million for New Hampshire to serve about 29,000 residents.

Without Title X funding, several New Hampshire women's health clinics and providers, including Planned Parenthood, would feel the impact.

Lamprey Health Care, which has locations in Newmarket, Nashua and Raymond, is facing a loss of funding for care of about 2,200 of its patients, according to CEO Ann Peters. It will see a loss of about $268,000 in federal funds.

Steve Trombley, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood of Northern New England, is concerned not only about the Title X funding provision in the budget, but about a separate measure in the budget that would ban federal funding to Planned Parenthood.

No specific figure on the federal money that would be cut to Planned Parenthood was available as it includes portions of Medicaid billed to the Medicaid program as patients seek treatment.

"That would mean it would be nearly impossible to operate the six health centers we currently operate in New Hampshire," Trombley said. "Our health centers are in communities where there simply aren't other health care providers that could absorb the enormous amount of need that would be created. The majority of the services we do, over 97 percent, are providing reproductive health care services. "

Such preventive services offered through all clinics and providers of women's health include breast exams, cervical cancer screenings and detection and birth control prescriptions, among many others.

"These are all preventive services that are all part of the safety net women in this state depend on," Trombley said.

Shaheen said the bill isn't about abortion because of the widespread impact it would have on all women's health services.

However, abortion has become a center-stage issue in New Hampshire under the new Republican supermajority in the House. On a state level, Planned Parenthood is facing possible elimination of its ability to contract with the Department of Health and Human Services under a bill that removes that funding option for all agencies that perform or refer for abortions.

But Trombley emphasized the majority of services Planned Parenthood offers are critical to preventive care and in many cases are the only services available for residents in a given area.

Planned Parenthood has six clinics in New Hampshire, and in 2010 served 15,850 patients.

"These are not small cuts," Shaheen said. "Many clinics would have to close their doors."

Mary Lou Beaver, a Rochester mother and the New Hampshire state director for Every Child Matters, spoke on the call about her daughter, who was treated for cervical cancer after an early diagnosis from Planned Parenthood during a routine checkup.

"The proposed legislation has the potential to prevent my daughter and others like her to receive the preventive care they need," she said, adding Planned Parenthood had provided services to her daughter when she was without insurance. Beaver said it would be a "risk" to women's health to have such agencies close their doors due to federal funding cuts.

"When you provide access to quality care, you have the opportunity to teach better health practices and prevent the consequences of disease further down the line," Peters said, adding the costs to society and the state would greatly increase if people no longer had access to such care as they would be turning to emergency rooms and simply not receiving the critical information and health care they need.

By Jennifer Keefe

Copyright (c) 2011, Foster's Daily Democrat, Dover, N.H.

Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.