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US health secretary visits Planned Parenthood after delivering federal funds

Grant intended to make up for funding rejected by Executive Council

U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services Xavier Becerra spoke of the administration's support for abortion rights Friday as he visited Planned Parenthood in Manchester.

Becerra's visit came after his department delivered a Title X Dire Need grant of $500,000 to Planned Parenthood to fill the gap left by funds rejected by New Hampshire's Executive Council over opposition to abortion.

"We've got your back," Becerra said. "And there have been some challenging times. I don't think they're over, but you hung in there, and we hope to make a commitment to you that we're not going to leave."

Becerra sat down with members of New Hampshire's federal delegation to discuss shrinking access to reproductive care nationwide and in the Granite State.

"It's been very disappointing to see so many people in Concord who have not been willing to educate themselves about what the needs of the women and families of this state are," said U.S. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-New Hampshire.

The delegation voiced disappointment in the loss of the bipartisan pro-choice consensus that held sway at the State House from Roe vs. Wade until recent years.

"Since the 1970s, the Title X program that provides annual exams, cancer screenings, STI treatment has been noncontroversial, and it's helped achieve a level of wellness among our population that's really important," said U.S. Rep. Chris Pappas, D-New Hampshire. "I hope we can stress that, that this is about health care."

Planned Parenthood officials said they're grateful for the funding, but they're still worried about what the rest of the year has in store for abortion rights.

"We are in a crisis moment," said Kayla Montgomery, of Planned Parenthood of Northern New England. "We know that the Supreme Court is going to make a ruling soon that could possibly decimate abortion access in this country. We know that when that happens, 26 states could move immediately, or soon, to ban abortion."