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Trump admin says it's 'committed' to federal family planning program amid delays

Trump admin says it's 'committed' to federal family planning program amid delays
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Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) officials are assuring family planning providers set to run out of federal funding this spring that there will be no gaps in services, even as the administration runs months behind in the grant process.

Valerie Huber, the acting assistant secretary for population affairs, the HHS office that oversees the Title X program, said in a notice to providers Tuesday that the Trump administration remains committed to the people who rely on the program.

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"The Title X Program is important to this administration," she said. "We are committed to the women and men who depend upon Title X services and efforts are already underway to ensure that there will be no gaps in service while the funding announcement is finalized."

Some family planning providers that offer reproductive health services to low-income women through the federally funded Title X program have grants expiring next month, but the administration has provided little information about reapplying for new grants. 

The administration previously estimated a funding announcement that lays out requirements for receiving the grants would be released in November, but it still hasn't been released as of Feb. 6. Some providers have grants expiring March 31.

With grants running out next month, providers have worried about potential gaps in funding, meaning some organizations wouldn't be able to continue offering services such as birth control.

Huber acknowledged Tuesday that her office missed its Nov. 1 deadline, but said it would work to provide technical assistance to those wishing to apply for the grants. 

"In addition, we will give applicants ample time to submit a quality proposal so that even more Americans have access to Title X services," she said. 

Clare Coleman, CEO of the National Family Planning and Reproductive Health Association, which represents family planning clinics, called the update welcome news but said the delays have been disruptive. 

"This important update from the Administration is welcome news for the nation’s family planning program. At the same time, the lack of transparency has undoubtedly been disruptive to our network whose 4 million patients rely on the Title X program every year for medical care," she said. 

Both supporters and critics of the program have expected for months that the administration would make changes to Title X — potentially through the funding announcement — that could include restrictions for providers that offer abortions or limit what services the funding can be used for.

While Title X funding can't be used for abortions, anti-abortion advocates argue that money is fungible and can still indirectly support the procedure. 

The previous leader of the Title X program, Teresa Manning, abruptly resigned last month. 

It's unclear if her departure is related to the delays.