Dems demand answers from Trump admin about family planning program

Dems demand answers from Trump admin about family planning program
© Greg Nash

Top Democrats on the House Energy and Commerce Committee are demanding the Trump administration explain why it's running months behind in a process to fund organizations that supply reproductive health services to low-income women. 

There are about 60 days before Title X family planning grants expire for some recipients, and in the past, they've typically been given 60 to 90 days to apply for more funding. The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) also needs time to review and approve applications.

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As of Monday, the administration still hasn't released a funding announcement that would detail requirements for receiving the money. 

The delays come as the administration is expected to make significant changes to the program to align with its stances on abortion and birth control. 

"The ongoing delay in posting the funding announcement creates a very serious risk that grantees will face a funding gap that will impede their ability to provide these essential services and may adversely affect the health and well-being of women and families across the nation," Reps. Frank Pallone Jr.Frank Joseph PalloneOvernight Health Care: Trump officials making changes to drug pricing proposal | House panel advances flavored e-cig ban | Senators press FDA tobacco chief on vaping ban House panel advances flavored e-cigarette ban Lawmakers call for extra security for anti-Erdoğan protesters  MORE (D-N.J.), Gene GreenRaymond (Gene) Eugene GreenTexas New Members 2019 Two Democrats become first Texas Latinas to serve in Congress Latina Leaders to Watch 2018 MORE (D-Texas) and Diana DeGetteDiana Louise DeGetteTrump health chief declines to detail ObamaCare replacement plan A dozen House Democrats call on EU ambassador to resign amid Ukraine scandal FDA under pressure to move fast on vaping MORE (D-Colo.) wrote in a letter to Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar Monday. 

The lawmakers note that it seems "highly unlikely" the grants will be awarded on time, which could lead to a disruption in care to "adolescents and women who can least afford it." 

The lawmakers asked when the announcement will be made available, how long applicants will have to complete applications and if awards will be made by April 1. 

They also asked the reason for the delay, and questioned whether it was related to the departure of Teresa Manning, the former HHS official in charge of the Title X program. 

She resigned earlier this month. 

Family planning groups funded through Title X are already making contingency plans in case there is a lapse in funding. 

“The reality is that all of the networks are going to start thinking about how and when to shut down services or minimize services if there is a lapse of funding, and thinking of what other patchwork of services they can put together to help people if HHS has not followed through in a timely manner,” Jessica Marcella, vice president of advocacy and communications for the National Family Planning & Reproductive Health Association, told The Hill this month.