- The federal Department of Health and Human Services will be awarding a $US1.7 million family planning grant to a nonprofit organisation in California opposed to abortion, and as much as $US5.1 million over the next three years.
- The Obria Group will use the grant to fund programs including sexual risk avoidance education, natural family planning, pregnancy testing, and prenatal education.
- At the same time, HHS also announced that it will cut funding to Planned Parenthood affiliates in Hawaii, North Carolina, Ohio, Wisconsin, and Virginia.
- The funding shift aligns with the Trump administration’s broad-sweeping efforts to reshape the federal government’s stance on reproductive rights and restrict abortion across the world.
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The federal Department of Health and Human Services announced last week that it will be awarding a $US1.7 million family planning grant to a nonprofit organisation staunchly opposed to abortion.
The Obria Group, which describes itself as “being led by God,” expects to receive up to $US5.1 million in Title X family planning dollars over the next three years, to fund programs including sexual risk avoidance education and natural family planning, according to a press release from the group.
“Many women want the opportunity to visit a professional, comprehensive health care facility – not an abortion clinic – for their health care needs,” Kathleen Eaton-Bravo, the founder and CEO of the Obria Group, said in a statement.
The funding shift aligns with the Trump administration’s broad-sweeping efforts to reshape the federal government’s stance on reproductive rights and restrict abortion across the world. Among other things, those actions include nominating federal judges and appointing officials at HHS who are against abortion; directing funds to sexual risk avoidance education and teenage pregnancy prevention programs that emphasise sexual abstinence; introducing rules that would allow some employers to opt out of providing birth control coverage for religious or moral reasons; and putting forth regulatory changes to the Title X family planning program that, if implemented, will block grants from going to any organisation that provides information or makes referrals about abortion – effectively fulfilling a campaign promise by the president to defund Planned Parenthood, and which opponents have dubbed a “gag” rule.
In response to the administration’s “gag” rule, groups like the Center for Reproductive Rights and the American Civil Liberties Union, in addition to 21 attorney generals across the country, filed lawsuits challenging the ban. If not put on hold by a court injunction, the rule is set to go into effect in May.
“We have seen previous politically motivated attacks on programs that seek to advance people’s reproductive health and rights from other socially conservative administrations, but I think the Trump administration is in some ways taking its coercive agenda to new heights,” Kinsey Hasstedt, a senior policy manager at the Guttmacher Institute, told INSIDER. “The administration is really trying to restrict peoples’ choices and direct them to certain services, certain outcomes, and certain providers.”
Under the Hyde Amendment, it’s already illegal to use federal taxpayer dollars for abortion, except in extremely limited circumstances. Up to $US60 million of family planning dollars is typically allocated each year to Planned Parenthood to provide services including birth control, breast and cervical cancer screenings, and STI testing and treatment. According to a list of recent HHS grant awards, which includes funding to direct grantees through 2022, Planned Parenthood will receive around $US16 million out of the $US256 million in grants announced last week – an almost 30 per cent deduction compared to what they have received in past years.
The Department of Health and Human Services also announced that it will cut funding to Planned Parenthood affiliates in Hawaii, North Carolina, Ohio, Wisconsin, and Virginia.
A HHS spokesperson told INSIDER that “all applicants are treated equally” when deciding which public and private nonprofit entities to allocate Title X grants.
“Eligible applicants are reviewed by a panel of independent reviewers and are evaluated based on criteria in the Funding Opportunity Announcement and the Title X regulations,” the spokesperson said. “Based on their review and proposed coverage of the service areas, the awards were made.”
The Obria Group’s grant will be used to oversee seven clinic partners across California, including three of its own affiliates that don’t provide contraceptives or perform abortions, the group said in its statement.
An Obria spokesperson told The Hill that while two of the four non-Obria affiliates do provide contraceptives, they will not be allowed to use Title X funding to pay for it. Obria did not return multiple calls and emails from INSIDER seeking comment as to why they will not be using family planning funds to pay for contraceptives at those facilities.
“Title X has been very clear that folks need to have access to a broad range of comprehensive method options and that people need to be given information on all of their pregnancy options and for whatever services that fit best with their needs,” Hasstedt told INSIDER. “That Obria is for some reason deciding not to use its Title X funds to provide contraceptive methods beyond fertility awareness-based methods is pretty troubling.”
Obria offers services such as pregnancy testing, prenatal education, ultrasound examinations, training in fertility awareness-based methods, like the rhythm method in which women track their menstrual cycle to predict when they will ovulate, and sexual risk avoidance education.
However, Freya Riedlin, federal policy counsel at the Center for Reproductive Rights, told INSIDER that sexual risk avoidance counseling is just code for abstinence until marriage. She added that research has shown that abstinence-only sex education policies are largely ineffective and don’t actually delay the age at which people have sex. For example, according to a federal study that spans nearly five decades, and despite an uptick in efforts to promote abstinence during that time, almost all Americans have sex prior to marriage.
“It’s encouraging to see groups like Obria, which offers comprehensive, quality health care to low-income women and families in California, apply and qualify,” Mallory Quigley, a spokesperson for the Susan B. Anthony List, which supports anti-abortion candidates, told INSIDER.
Obria was formed in the 1980s as a volunteer-run chain of crisis pregnancy centres across Southern California. The group gradually added physicians and, in 2015, started to organise as a national network of crisis pregnancy clinics opposed to abortion. According to the Campaign for Accountability, which tracks Obria’s tax filings, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops has donated $US2.5 million to the group. The Roman Catholic Bishop of Orange, which is affiliated with the Catholic dioecese in Orange County, also donated $US560,000.
“This is redirecting funding from proven providers and evidence-based programs and granting those funds to a group that doesn’t even provide contraception, which runs afoul of the intent of the program,” Riedlin told INSIDER. “This is one piece in a long line of attacks on women’s health and prioritising ideology over women’s health.”
- Read more:
- Georgia’s 6-week abortion ban just passed the state’s House – and is headed to the Governor’s desk
- ‘We are not monsters’: 123 people who’ve experienced ‘late-term abortions’ signed an open letter to fight perceived misconceptions about the procedure
- President Trump called for a ban on ‘late-term abortion’ in the State of the Union. Here’s what you should know about the procedure.
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