House Democrats probe Trump administration's funding of anti-abortion group

House Democrats probe Trump administration's funding of anti-abortion group
© Greg Nash

House Democrats are launching a probe of the Trump administration's decision to fund an anti-abortion group through a federal family planning program while cutting government support for Planned Parenthood.  

The Trump administration announced last month that four Planned Parenthood affiliates would not be awarded Title X family planning grants this year, despite receiving them in the past. The administration also announced that, for the first time, it would fund Obria, a chain of anti-abortion clinics that don't provide contraception.

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Democrats, led by Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Frank Pallone Jr.Frank Joseph PalloneDem chairmen urge CMS to prevent nursing homes from seizing stimulus payments Federal watchdog finds cybersecurity vulnerabilities in FCC systems Overnight Health Care — Presented by That's Medicaid — Deal on surprise medical bills faces obstacles | House GOP unveils rival drug pricing measure ahead of Pelosi vote | Justices to hear case over billions in ObamaCare payments MORE (N.J.), wrote in a letter to Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar that the changes don't meet the goals of the program, which is to fund clinics that provide low-income women access to reproductive care. 

“In eliminating longstanding comprehensive sexual and reproductive health centers from the Title X network and directing funding to grantees that will not guarantee access to contraception or HIV and other STI prevention services, the funding decision contradicts the program’s longstanding purpose of ‘providing individuals with comprehensive family planning and related preventive health services,' " Pallone wrote in the letter with Rep. Anna EshooAnna Georges EshooDemocrats fear US already lost COVID-19 battle Why drug costs for older Americans should be capped in pandemic's wake Senate panel advances bill targeting online child sexual abuse MORE (D-Calif.), chairwomen of the Health Subcommittee, and Diana DeGetteDiana Louise DeGetteHillicon Valley: Facebook civil rights audit finds 'serious setbacks' | Facebook takes down Roger Stone-affiliated accounts, pages | State and local officials beg Congress for more elections funds House Democrats press Twitter, Facebook, Google for reports on coronavirus disinformation Short-term health plans leave consumers on the hook for massive medical costs, investigation finds MORE (D-Colo.), chairwoman of the Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee.

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.

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, a spokesperson told The Hill last month.

The Democrats argue this arrangement violates congressional intent for the program. 

"The shift of funding toward [crisis pregnancy centers] that will not offer patients direct access to a broad range of contraceptive care and counseling is alarming," they wrote. 

The Democrats said they were "alarmed" by emails obtained by The New York Times that showed Health and Human Services (HHS) officials communicating with Orbia about funding opportunities.

The Democrats asked HHS to provide all documents and communications between HHS and Obria regarding the Title X program over the past two years and its applications for funding.

Democrats are also asking HHS for more information about its decision to fund Beacon Christian Community Health Center, a faith-based organization in New York, for the second year in a row.