Planned Parenthood won't be barred from applying for family planning funds

Planned Parenthood won't be barred from applying for family planning funds
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Planned Parenthood and other abortion providers will not be barred from applying for funding under a federal family planning grant program, an official at the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) said Friday.

The HHS Office of Population Affairs released a long-awaited funding announcement Friday for $260 million in funding for Title X grants.

Family planning advocates feared the administration would use the announcement as a way to cut Planned Parenthood and other providers out of the program, but Valerie Huber, acting deputy assistant secretary for population affairs, said that’s not the case.

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“All eligible organizations, including Planned Parenthood, are free to apply for this funding announcement,” Huber said in a press call with reporters Friday afternoon.

However, Huber indicated that the administration is looking at changes to the Title X program through regulation, since the changes it can make through a funding announcement are limited.

“We’re looking at opportunities to improve the program, and I really can’t speak to what that looks like,” she said, noting that the announcement had to fit within the parameters of current law and regulation.

Each year, HHS releases a funding announcement for the Title X program, and is free to change program requirements and priorities, as long as they fit within current law.

While Planned Parenthood isn’t barred from applying for funding, which would likely open the administration up to lawsuits, some new rules could make it harder for the provider and its affiliates to qualify.

The announcement says each potential recipient should “optimally” offer primary health services onsite or have robust referral linkages to primary health-care providers in close proximity.

This could exclude some Planned Parenthood facilities that only offer reproductive health services or very basic wellness checkups.

Huber, asked whether the new criteria would make it more difficult for Planned Parenthood to receive funding, replied: “We don’t know who will be funded. Any eligible organization is free to apply.”

The administration has made defunding Planned Parenthood one of its top priorities, but failed to do so multiple times last year.

The White House reiterated in its budget proposal released earlier this month that Planned Parenthood and other abortion providers should be prohibited from receiving federal funds.

In the funding announcement, the Trump administration also encourages funding recipients to cooperate with “community-based and faith-based organizations.”

It also encourages funding recipients to have programs that don’t “normalize sexual risk behaviors” for adolescents and to communicate the benefits of “delaying sex” or “returning to a sexually risk-free status.”

Huber was a prominent leader of the abstinence-only sex education movement before taking a job at HHS last year.

While the Obama administration’s 2016 requirements said patients should have access to a “broad range of contraception options,” the new requirements don’t mention birth control at all.

Obama specifically said patients should have access to long-acting reversible contraceptives, like IUDs, which some anti-abortion groups consider to be abortifacients.

Family planning clinics grew impatient with the administration amid a months-long delay in the funding announcement. Many groups run out of grants next month, but the funding announcement was expected in November.

Huber said Friday the delay was because HHS was trying to “streamline” the process for applying for grants.

She said she expects the awards to be issued in September, and that groups running out of funds before then can apply for extensions of their current grants.