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Senate Dems say changes to family planning program could undercut access to care

Senate Dems say changes to family planning program could undercut access to care
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Recent changes to the Title X family planning program for low-income women and men could undercut access to reproductive health care, Senate Democrats argued in a letter to the Trump administration Thursday. 

In a funding announcement released last month, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) said grantees should be able to provide primary health services, as well as reproductive health services. 

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Democrats argue this could cut out organizations that specialize in reproductive health care and don't offer primary health services. 

The announcement also did not mention contraceptive services as a priority, unlike the previous administration, and emphasized natural family planning and abstinence education for adolescents. 

The Democrats, led by Sen. Patty MurrayPatricia (Patty) Lynn MurrayOvernight Health Care: 50 million coronavirus vaccines given | Pfizer news | Biden health nominees Rand Paul criticized for questioning of transgender health nominee Biden health nominee faces first Senate test MORE (Wash.), ranking member of the Senate Health Committee, also expressed concern about changes in the grant decision-making process. 

Valerie Huber, the acting deputy assistant secretary for population affairs, will have the final say in which organizations receive the funding, while in previous administrations, this decision rested with several individuals. 

Huber, a former leader of a national abstinence education advocacy group, has previously criticized Planned Parenthood, which serves 41 percent of Title X patients. 

"We fear the funding announcement signals this administration's intent to prioritize unworkable ideology within this historically bipartisan program, which will undermine the program's long-standing goal of providing affordable, high-quality contraceptive care and related preventive health care services for low-income, uninsured, and otherwise underserved people," the 32 Democratic senators wrote in the letter. 

Huber told reporters in February all eligible organizations, including Planned Parenthood affiliates and clinics, could apply for the funding. 

Applications for grants are due May 24.