Trump administration awards $1.7 million family planning grant to anti-abortion clinics

The Trump administration announced Friday it would award a $1.7 million family planning grant to a chain of crisis pregnancy centers that oppose abortion and don’t offer contraceptives, while at the same time cutting funds to some Planned Parenthood affiliates.

The Obria group, which considers itself the “pro-life” version of Planned Parenthood, says it will receive a grant to provide family planning services in California.

The administration’s decision to fund Obria is a signal of its desire to shift family planning funds toward faith-based groups that oppose abortion and away from groups like Planned Parenthood.  

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“Many women want the opportunity to visit a professional, comprehensive health care facility — not an abortion clinic — for their health care needs; this grant will give them that choice,” Kathleen Eaton Bravo, founder and CEO of The Obria Group, said in a statement. 

Obria will oversee the work of seven clinic partners, including three of its affiliates that don't provide contraceptives or perform abortions, in four California counties, the group said in the statement.

Of the other four clinics under Obria's oversight, two will provide contraceptives, but won't be allowed to use Title X family planning grant program funds to pay for it, the spokesperson said. 

"None of the funds under this grant going to the subrecipients can be used for contraceptive drugs and devices," the spokesperson said. 

The group says it offers pregnancy testing and counseling, prenatal care, HIV/AIDS testing, ultrasounds, cancer testing, well-woman care, pap smears, STD testing and treatment, adoption referral and post-abortion support. 

It will receive $1.7 million in 2019 and, along with other Title X providers, will receive funding through 2022 based on availability of funds, grant compliance and the project’s progress, according to an HHS spokesperson. 

Obria said it thinks it will get $5.1 million through 2022.

Julie Rabinovitz, president and CEO of Essential Access Health, which will receive $21 million in 2019 to provide family planning services in California, said she is concerned about Obria entering the program because it doesn’t provide a comprehensive range of contraception options. 

“We’re very concerned that by Obria entering into the program, they’re denying women information about all their health care options,” she said. “It could really reduce the progress we’ve made in reducing unintended pregnancies.” 

Fewer affiliates of Planned Parenthood will receive funding this year. Only seven affiliates will receive funding this year, compared with 11 affiliates that received funding last year. 

Planned Parenthood said in a statement Friday that the four affiliates that were “stripped of funding” served Hawaii, North Carolina, Ohio, Wisconsin and Virginia, serving more than 40,000 patients.

“Today, they are removing funding from these trusted health centers and providing funding to entities that do not provide evidence-based treatment,” Planned Parenthood President Leana Wen said in a statement. 

“This continued attack on Title X will result in dismantling our nation’s program for affordable birth control and reproductive health care, risking access to comprehensive health care for millions of low-income women and families.”

More changes will come to Title X this year unless they are blocked by a federal judge in a pending lawsuit. 

Under changes recently finalized by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), Obria and other Title X providers will no longer be required to counsel patients about abortion as an option to end pregnancy. 

That requirement has dissuaded many groups that oppose the procedure from applying for the funds in the past. 

Providers will also be banned from giving women abortion referrals, under the changes that go in effect May 3. 

HHS’ new rules also require that family planning providers receiving the grants be financially and physically separate from abortion providers. 

Anti-abortion groups and abortion rights groups alike see this as a way to strip Planned Parenthood of the millions of dollars it gets from the Title X program. 

While it was awarded funds this year, it would have to either comply with the new regulations or leave the program if the rules aren’t blocked by a federal judge in the pending lawsuit.

Planned Parenthood's Wen has previously said the organization wouldn’t participate in the changes if the rules are allowed to go into effect. 

While all federal funding is prohibited from going toward abortion, except in limited circumstances, anti-abortion groups and the Trump administration argue that any funds going to Planned Parenthood can indirectly support the procedure. 

Updated: 8:24 p.m.