As legislation aimed at banning abortions after a fetal heartbeat is detected advanced at the state level in Georgia on Friday, the Trump administration dealt its own blow to reproductive health care nationwide. In a move many characterized as an attempt to defund abortion clinics like Planned Parenthood, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced plans Friday to award a massive family planning grant to the faith-based Obria Group over the course of the next three years. All told, Trump could give the anti-abortion crisis pregnancy centers $5.1 million in Title X Family Planning funds.
According to The Hill, the Obria Group will be given $1.7 million in Title X Family Planning funds for 2019. Should funds remain available and the faith-based nonprofit continue to comply with the requirements of the grant, the Obria Group would receive an additional $1.7 million annually through the following two years. In a statement, the group said it would use the grant money to "expand services to low income individuals and families in four California counties" by overseeing "the work of seven clinic partners including three of its own California affiliates."
But according to the Obria Group, none of its three California clinics provide abortions or contraceptives. Rather the group has said its clinics focus on offering "life-affirming care" through things like pregnancy testing and counseling, prenatal care, adoption referral, cancer screening, and STD testing and treatment.
Two of the four clinic partners the Obria Group will oversee through the grant program do provide contraceptives, The Hill has reported. However, a spokesperson for the Obria Group told The Hill that none of the Title X Family Planning grant money will be used to cover the cost of contraceptives at those clinics.
In a statement released Friday, Obria Group Founder and CEO Kathleen Eaton Bravo characterized the grant award as the Trump administration moving to increase women's choices in reproductive health care. "With this grant, the administration has opened up a new avenue of health care choices for low income and underserved women and their families in California," Bravo said. "Many women want the opportunity to visit a professional, comprehensive health care facility — not an abortion clinic — for their health care needs; today HHS gave women that choice."
But, according to The New York Times, activists on both sides of the abortion debate view HHS' decision to award anti-abortion crisis pregnancy centers with Title X funds "as a potentially significant move to try to defund medical clinics that provide abortions."
While Title X funds are not eligible to be used to fund abortion services, groups like Planned Parenthood and its affiliates — which do provide abortions through other funding revenues — have historically received a good chunk of Title X Family Planning Program funds. But as The Kaiser Family Foundation has reported, the Trump administration has implemented new Title X regulations, which have effectively made it more difficult for clinics that provide abortion services to qualify for Title X funding.
Indeed, in light of HSS' Title X funding grant, some have questioned the Obria Group's commitment to reproductive care. "Many qualified organizations applied for Title X funding to provide family planning services," Campaign For Accountability Counsel Alice Huling said in a statement. "Nevertheless, the Trump administration, which appears more interested in courting religious ideologues than in providing real healthcare to low income Americans, awarded funding to Obria, a religious ministry masquerading as healthcare group."
Earlier this month Campaign For Accountability sued HHS in an effort to obtain information about the Trump administration's relationship with Obria Group.