New federally funded clinics emphasize abstinence, natural family planning

By: Ariana Eunjung Cha, The Washington Post, July 22, 2019

Thousands of California women and teenagers seeking free or discounted reproductive health services through a federal program could find themselves in clinics that focus on abstinence and natural family planning as methods of birth control.

Operated by the California-based Obria Group, the health centers appear to be modeled after faith-based crisis pregnancy centers, designed to persuade women to continue their pregnancies, but with a twist: Obria’s clinics encourage young clients to use online apps, developed with funding from religious conservatives, to “move them away from sexual risks as their only option in life, to an option of self-control.”

Some Obria centers participating in the federal family planning program, known as Title X, also offer “abortion pill reversal,” which involves administering large doses of the hormone progesterone to patients who have taken the first dose of the two-pill medication abortion regimen, according to the group’s site. The procedure, which the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists says is not supported by scientific research, is not reimbursable under Title X.

Chief executive Kathleen Bravo is pitching Obria as a “pro-life” alternative to Planned Parenthood — by far the largest recipient of family planning funds under the $287 million program, which offers services to about 4 million low-income women and girls. Planned Parenthood is at risk of losing that funding because of a recent rule change that requires abortions be delivered in separate places than family-planning services and bars directive counseling that mentions abortion.

Few details were available, and Obria officials declined to elaborate to media organizations, but documents obtained by the Campaign for Accountability under the Freedom of Information Act and shared with The Washington Post detail Obria’s vision for the health centers.

Alice Huling, an attorney with the Campaign for Accountability, said allowing Obria to participate in the federal family planning program could mislead patients.

“This means women will be going to a clinic to talk about options and not know that they are at a place driven by a very narrow ideological view on birth control and reproductive health,” Huling said.

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