Why Biden’s ‘Gag Rule’ Reversal Came Just in Time for New Hampshire

After New Hampshire Republicans stripped funding from the state's affordable reproductive health-care clinics, Biden's new Title X policy offers a lifeline.

Photo of Joe Biden speaking behind podium with yellow and blue sign that says build back better
The Biden administration announced its rollback of President Trump's domestic "gag rule" last week, restoring federal Title X funds to family planning providers that offer or refer patients for abortions. Nicholas Kamm/AFP via Getty Image

When the Biden administration announced its rollback of President Trump’s domestic “gag rule” last week, restoring federal Title X funds to family planning providers that offer or refer patients for abortions, reproductive health advocates in New Hampshire had particular reason to celebrate.

Just a few weeks earlier, Republicans on New Hampshire’s executive council had voted to strip state funding from three family planning clinics that also provide abortion care. Since those three clinics provide about 80 percent of “women’s services” in the state, Democratic lawmakers were getting desperate.

As the Center Square reported in late September:

Sen. Jeanne Shaheen and other members of New Hampshire’s all-Democrat congressional delegation said women’s health providers in New Hampshire desperately need [Title X] funding now to offset a loss of state funding cut by the GOP-controlled Executive Council.

In a letter to acting Budget Director Shalanda Young, Shaheen and other New Hampshire lawmakers urged the Biden administration to move quickly to rescind the rules.

“Until the Title X program is restored, providers who withdrew from the program are unable to access traditional Title X dollars and supplemental family planning funds designed to provide emergency relief,” the lawmakers wrote. “This is particularly problematic for providers in New Hampshire who are in immediate need of support.”

The loss of federal funding from the “gag rule” had already resulted in 31 percent to 40 percent fewer family planning patients in New Hampshire being served, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, making Title X services almost inaccessible.

And, no, those reproductive health-care providers weren’t using state funding to provide abortions (although it’s discriminatory not to, as Imani Gandy, Rewire News Group‘s senior editor for law and policy, pointed out long ago). The health centers, which include a Planned Parenthood clinic, are already complying with a New Hampshire law that requires they use private funding instead. New Hampshire’s Republican-led executive council took money away from cancer screenings and other preventive reproductive health care on principle (or lack thereof).

Of course, New Hampshire hasn’t been an abortion haven for a while now: On top of parental consent laws, the allegedly “pro-choice” Gov. Chris Sununu signed a state budget earlier this year that bans abortions at or after 24 weeks’ gestation, with no exceptions for rape, incest, or fetal viability.

To use the words of the state motto, “Live Free or Die,” New Hampshire seems to have chosen the latter—at least when it comes to pregnant people, low-income citizens, and abortion providers.

This post was adapted from a Twitter thread.