Political appointees are shifting federal grants away from evidence-based health care providers — and toward ideology-driven opponents of our rights.
Political appointees in the Trump-Pence administration have undertaken another sneaky attempt to limit your access to reproductive health care. Using an arcane grantmaking process under Title X — the nation’s only program dedicated to providing affordable birth control and other reproductive health care — the administration is diverting federal funds away from proven, trusted health care providers like Planned Parenthood.
What’s their goal? To steer federal dollars toward ideological opponents of abortion and reproductive rights — and to take a new step toward eliminating people’s access to the full range of reproductive health-care options.
Here’s what you need to know.
How they’re doing it
Late in March 2019, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) listed recipients of federal grants to provide care under Title X. Grantees deliver access to affordable birth control and reproductive health care to people with low incomes — including many who couldn’t otherwise afford health care services on their own.
Usually a nonevent, the list release made news because the Trump-Pence administration’s grant announcement left out four Planned Parenthood affiliates that have provided care to patients under Title X for years.
Planned Parenthood has a proven record of serving millions of patients through Title X. Recent analysis shows that 41% of people who get care through Title X do so at Planned Parenthood health centers. To exclude proven providers such as Planned Parenthood rewards ideology at the expense of public health — and puts access to Pap tests, cancer screenings, and other potentially lifesaving health care for hundreds of thousands of people at risk.
The administration has attacked reproductive health care under Title X before. In fact, just 3 weeks earlier in 2019, HHS issued a Title X gag rule designed to stop patients in the program from getting birth control at places like Planned Parenthood — and prohibit doctors from giving women full information about their sexual and reproductive health care options. The gag rule is scheduled to take effect in early May.
Act now to #ProtectX
This is the next big fight, and your role is crucial. Against all odds, we’ve won again and again — and this is our time to combine our energy and everything we’ve learned to protect one of our most fundamental rights.
Reproductive health care is health care. By freezing out longtime providers of Title X health care under Title X, the administration has sent a clear signal: it intends to pursue the ultimate goal of its gag rule, which is to take away access to reproductive health care, through every means available.
That the announcement of the gag rule and the ouster of proven providers from Title X happened in quick succession is no coincidence. The Trump-Pence administration has been laser-focused in its pursuit of a clear ideological agenda: blocking access to reproductive health care, including safe, legal abortion and birth control at providers such as Planned Parenthood health centers.
From the early days of his campaign, President Trump promised to appoint judges who would “automatically” rule to overturn Roe v. Wade, the 1973 case which affirmed that access to safe and legal abortion is a constitutional right.
With Justices Kavanaugh and Gorsuch, Trump worked to keep that promise. Beyond the spotlight, however, the White House also worked to fill the ranks of the administration with ideologues who oppose access to safe and legal abortion, birth control — and even comprehensive sex education.
Among those appointees:
Foley is the Title X program’s current administrator — who before joining the Trump-Pence team had operated two fake women’s health centers in Colorado.
Talento, a White House domestic policy council member who in the past has made the false claim that birth control causes infertility — and who has worked from the White House to undermine access to birth control in the U.S. and beyond.
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With those hires and others, the Trump-Pence administration has built a team committed to undermining access to the full range of reproductive health options — and one equipped to direct funds meant for the expansion of access to reproductive health care to ideologues who oppose that care.
A senior attorney at the National Women’s Law Center (NWLC) warned of such intentions for Title X funds in 2017:
In an interview, [Mara] Gandal-Powers [senior counsel for reproductive rights and health at NWLC] underscored advocates’ “huge concern” that the announcement could unlock federal money for grantees that previously wouldn’t have been eligible to apply or otherwise lack women’s health experience…
“Like a crisis pregnancy center, or something that even has an innocuous name that doesn’t actually know what it’s doing on women’s health, or a state that then would try to administer it in a way that would be preferable to this administration but not helpful for women,” Gandal-Powers said.
The impact: More dollars for fake health centers …
After the exclusion of proven providers from Title X grants, concerns about the Trump-Pence administration’s redistribution of reproductive health funds for ideological purposes are no longer hypothetical. Even as they squeeze longtime providers from the Title X program, Trump-Pence political appointees have hung a welcome sign for ideological groups — including operators of ‘health centers’ that push birth control options such as the calendar method, the temperature method, and other fertility awareness methods over common forms of birth control that are up to 99% effective.
One beneficiary of the administration’s ideological largesse: Obria, a California-based network. Obria received a three-year grant worth $1.7 million per year to provide reproductive health care, even though its health centers, by the organization’s own admission, do not provide “contraceptives” — meaning forms of birth control other than fertility awareness methods.
The administration’s apparent decision to favor ideology over evidence-based medicine speaks to the depth of the Trump-Pence team’s bias against evidence-based health care. The current administrator of the Title X program, Diane Foley, was president and CEO of an organization financed by Focus on the Family — an anti-LGBTQ hate group — that operated two Colorado fake women’s health centers. While leading those clinics, Foley propagated unfounded myths about reproductive health care, and even claimed that demonstrating proper condom usage in a sex-education setting was too complicated and could be “sexually harassing.”
Foley and her predecessor in overseeing Title X, Valerie Huber, have long had the goal of curtailing not only people’s access to evidence-based reproductive health care, but also access to evidence-based information about reproductive and sexual health. With the Trump-Pence administration, Foley and Huber have both found their best opportunity to attempt to achieve those ideological goals.
… and Reduced Access to Essential Health Care
The damage Foley, Huber, and other Trump-Pence political appointees are poised to do to people’s access to reproductive health care is enormous.
The Title X program serves 4 million patients per year, and 41% of patients who receive care under Title X do so at Planned Parenthood health centers — including centers operated by affiliates excluded by Trump-Pence appointees from Title X grants.
In California alone, Planned Parenthood affiliates deliver Title X reproductive health services to 705,000 patients.
Find the impact on your state here
In Wisconsin, Planned Parenthood health centers serve four out of five patients — 79 percent — who receive care made possible by Title X.
This health care gives people more control over if and when they have children, and allows people to exercise more control over their lives.
Moreover, we know what happens when politicians succeed at blocking patients from care at Planned Parenthood:
In Texas, data shows that tens of thousands fewer people receive care due to the deliberate reduction of access to proven, trusted health care providers.
In Iowa, a law led to the closure of four Planned Parenthood health centers, displacing nearly 15,000 patients — many of whom have no place else to go for STD tests, Pap tests, and other services provided through Title X. Rates of gonorrhea in one part of Iowa affected by the closures have since almost quadrupled.
Attacks on Title X also harm communities that need more access to health care—not less.
The majority of patients in the Title X program identify as people of color, Hispanic, or Latino; 21% identify as Black or African American, while 33% identify as Hispanic or Latino. Many women of color face delayed health diagnoses and increased mortality rates for breast and cervical cancer — forms of cancer that can be detected early in screenings provided through Title X at Planned Parenthood health centers. And more than half of Planned Parenthood health centers are in rural or underserved communities, where access to health care is often already scant.
But the Trump-Pence administration has subordinated evidence-based health care to its anti-reproductive health ideology time and time again, subjecting the birth control that nine in 10 women will rely on at some point in their lives to attack after attack. The Trump-Pence administration’s quiet attempt to undermine Title X by using reproductive health-care grants for ideological purposes is its latest attack — but there will be more.
And together, we’ll fight to stop every single one of them.
How Can We Fight the Attacks on Title X?
Add your name to our open letter to #ProtectX — and speak out to save more than 4 million people who rely on Title X health centers from the Trump-Pence administration’s dangerous gag rule.