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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 PalloneHouse Democrats urge Amazon to investigate, recall 'defective' products Asbestos ban stalls in Congress amid partisan fight Pharma execs say FDA will not lower standards for coronavirus vaccine 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 EshooHow to expand rural broadband, fast and affordably Hillicon Valley: Productivity, fatigue, cybersecurity emerge as top concerns amid pandemic | Facebook critics launch alternative oversight board | Google to temporarily bar election ads after polls close Lawmakers introduce legislation to boost cybersecurity of local governments, small businesses MORE (D-Calif.), chairwomen of the Health Subcommittee, and Diana DeGetteDiana Louise DeGette20 years later, the FDA must lift restrictions on medication abortion care Overnight Energy: Trump officials finalize plan to open up protected areas of Tongass to logging | Feds say offshore testing for oil can proceed despite drilling moratorium | Dems question EPA's postponement of inequality training Democrats question EPA postponement of environmental inequality training 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.