February 25, 2020 Press Releases, Themis Project

Campaign for Accountability Releases Statement Regarding Ninth Circuit Ruling Upholding Title X Gag Rule

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: February 25, 2020

Contact: Bryan Dewan, bdewan@campaignforaccountability.org, 202.780.5750

WASHINGTON, D.C. – On February 24, 2020, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit issued a ruling upholding the Trump Administration’s policy barring federally funded family planning centers from referring women for abortions.

Click here to read the decision.

In February 2019, the Trump Administration issued a rule prohibiting healthcare clinics participating in the federal family planning program known as Title X from providing abortions or abortion referrals. The rule also required that all pregnant Title X patients be referred for prenatal care, even individuals wishing to terminate their pregnancies. The revised rule requires Title X clinics to maintain a “clear physical and financial separation” between services funded under Title X and abortion services despite a preexisting federal law barring federal funding from being spent on abortion.

Numerous state health departments and healthcare oraganizations across the country have decided to leave the Title X program rather than comply with the Administration’s rule mandating patient care incongruous with an individual’s wishes. Six states that were previously part of the program no longer receive Title X funding.

In response to the court ruling, Campaign for Accountability (CfA) Counsel Alice Huling issued the following statement:

The court’s decision to uphold a policy leaving millions of people without access to family planning services is deeply disappointing. The federal government should use its power to extend healthcare services to low-income Americans who need it the most. Instead, the Trump Administration is hellbent on weakening the healthcare services on which women and children depend. Federal courts should not green light the administration’s efforts to undermine this decades-old federal program and the administrative process.

According to the Washington Post, the Ninth Circuit ruling rejected arguments set forth by public health advocates that “HHS did not consider potenetial harm to clinics and patients.” Three states within the Ninth Circuit have been forced to forgo Title X funding due to the administration’s rule change, leaving millions of people without access to adequate healthcare.

Background

CfA has taken several steps to investigate the Trump administration’s efforts to repurpose funding for the Title X program. Through Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests and litigation, CfA has uncovered efforts by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to redirect some of California’s Title X funding to Obria, a faith-based group opposed to  contraception and abortion, despite the organization’s inability to efficiently administer Title X funds. On March 29, 2019, HHS awarded the network of anti-abortion pregnancy clinics—which do not offer comprehensive family planning services—$1.7 million. Obria characterizes itself as an anti-abortion alternative to Planned Parenthood, but refuses to provide any contraceptives, even condoms. 

Click here to read more about CfA’s work to hold Obria accountable.

On May 13, 2019, CfA released a report, Trolling for Title X Funds, which documents the growth and deception of Obria. CfA’s report provides a comprehensive history of Obria and reveals how the group has transformed from a single crisis pregnancy center in California to a national umbrella organization seeking to wrest Title X funds away from legitimate healthcare providers.

Click here to read CfA’s report.

On December 17, 2019, CfA sent a letter to HHS Secretary Alex Azar and Deputy Assistant Secretary for Population Affairs, Dr. Diane Foley, asking HHS to end Title X funding for Obria. CfA’s letter details the inaccurate information Obria appears to have deliberately provided in its Title X grant application, as well as the myriad ways in which Obria appears to be an inefficient and uncompetitive applicant for Title X funds.

Click here to read CfA’s letter to HHS.

Ms. Huling continued, “The Trump Administration has hijacked the Title X program for political gain while leaving millions of people without access to comprehensive healthcare. CfA will continue to hold this administration accountable for unraveling a crucial nationwide healthcare program.”

Campaign for Accountability is a nonpartisan, nonprofit watchdog organization that uses research, litigation, and aggressive communications to expose misconduct and malfeasance in public life and hold those who act at the expense of the public good accountable for their actions.