“New Hampshire Loses its Damn Mind, Defunds Planned Parenthood.” That’s how the gals over at Jezebel.com put it, and it pretty much expressed the shock I felt when my adoptive state abruptly cancelled its contract with the family planning provider. Sure, New Hampshire is a red state. But it usually embraces a New England-style, fiscally conservative, socially Libertarian kind of Republicanism – not the wingnut variety that has tragically intoxicated so much of the GOP for, oh, the last 20 years. So why did my erstwhile home state suddenly go bonkers?
Well, it didn’t. Three guys did. And I use the word “guys” advisedly here. Three white, well-heeled males on New Hampshire’s Executive Council voted to block the renewal of Planned Parenthood’s contract. The five-member Executive Council is a leftover from colonial days; in other words, it’s about as crucial to the state’s existence as your appendix is to yours. Usually it busies itself with such important tasks as rubber-stamping contracts, approving notary public appointments and overseeing the 10-year highway plan. Suddenly this vestigial organ decided to grow a pair. Ironically, when it did, it voted 3-2 against giving the citizens of the great state of New Hampshire access to affordable birth control.
“If they want to have a good time, why not let them pay for it?” was how Councilor Raymond Wieczorek of Manchester explained his vote to the local paper.
“If they want to have a good time.” Yes, that’s what the debate over funding for vital health services has come down to: smirky innuendo worthy of a whispered conversation on the playground at recess. Planned Parenthood has cooties, to Ray Wieczorek’s way of thinking, and the state has to stop touching it or the cooties will spread.
As usual, the people who are “paying for it” are those who can least afford it. Low-income Planned Parenthood clients in the Granite State will see their price for a monthly pack of birth control pills shoot from $5 to somewhere between $40 and $100, according to the Huffington Post. Many of the women who came in for pills stuck around for other key services like PAP smears and STD tests. Now they’ll walk away with nothing.
New Hampshire now joins seven other states – Indiana, Kansas, New Jersey, North Carolina, Tennessee, Texas and Wisconsin — in cutting or eliminating a total of about $60 million in family planning funding. And the cooties campaign is just getting started. Across the country, lawmakers are eager to prove their moral superiority by denying healthcare to constituents who don’t get enough of it to begin with.
Planned Parenthood is considering legal action in New Hampshire, a step it has already taken in other states. It may well win. But the effort will drain it of energy and resources, which I daresay is the point of the whole cooties campaign. That’s why you and I have to fight. The more we stand up for our rights at protests, through e-mails and petitions and phone calls, and at the ballot box, the less Planned Parenthood will have to fight in court just to provide women with the services they deserve.
Photo by on Flickr (New Hampshire Statehouse), Creative Commons 2.0 license