Last week, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) awarded approximately 1.5 million dollars in teen pregnancy prevention funding to three anti-choice organizations, Obria Group, the Women’s Care Center of Erie County, and Bethany Christian Services. All three groups are known to have a history of misrepresenting sexual health information, and two of the organizations receiving federal funding promote “medication abortion reversal” services, a practice that the American College of Obstreticians and Gynocolegists (ACOG) considers both “unproven and unethical.”
Rachel Fey, the director of public policy at Power to Decide, said that “some of the organizations that received grants most recently…promote false and scientifically inaccurate statements on their websites about FDA-approved methods of birth control.” She cited both Obria and Women’s Care Center as examples.
Mary Alice Carter (senior adviser to Equity Forward, a reproductive health care advocacy group,) said that Obria’s recent Title X grants and TPPP grants are an “antithesis to the program” as the administration is “funding an organization that doesn’t provide birth control.”
Andrea Swartzendruber, an assistant professor at the University of Georgia’s College of Public Health, also raised concerns about groups like Obria receiving Title X funding. “I think it’s entirely and very concerning that any type of crisis pregnancy centers, including Obria, would be funded through the Title X program,” she said.
Established in 2010, the Teen Pregnancy Prevention Program (TPPP)’s mission is to “replicate programs that have been proven effective through rigorous evaluation to reduce teenage pregnancy,” according to HHS. Since TPPP was established, the rate of teen pregnancy has declined. In 2017, the Trump administration discontinued TPPPs, though court orders forced the administration to reinstate them in 2018.
Instead of eliminating the program, HSS is funding “unqualified providers,” said Michelle Kuppersmith, the director of Equity Forward (a reproductive health care advocacy group). This recent news comes in addition to a HHS announcement in March that Obria would receive 1.7 million dollars in Title X funds.
None of the Title X funds that Obria receives will go towards contraceptives; instead, they will go towards abstinence education and a natural family planning program known as the Fertility Education and Medical Management (FEMM). Serving an estimated 12,000 patients at twenty-one sites in California, Obria Medical Clinics oppose contraception and teach abstinence and natural family planning methods. Thirteen of their twenty-one sites do not offer contraceptives such as the birth control pill, condoms, or IUDs, and they refuse to refer patients to clinics that provide those services.
Obria became the first group of its kind to receive federal funding through Title X. Established in 1970, Title X is the only federal domestic program that is exclusively concerned with providing funds for family planning and reproductive health services. Title X funding is awarded to support clinics and organizations providing low-income women with critical access to birth control. According to the Center for American Progress, women’s health centers that receive money from Title X prevent 1 million unintended pregnancies each year.
Media Resources: Guttmacher Institute 5/24/18, Feminist Newswire 7/22/19, Rewire News 7/23/19, The Hill 7/24/19