New Report, Trolling for Title X Funds, Reveals How the Anti-Birth Control Group, Obria, Misleads the Public
Report Documents the History of the so-called “Ministry” Now Receiving Title X Funding
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: May 13, 2019
Contact: Bryan Dewan, firstname.lastname@example.org, 202.780.5750
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, Campaign for Accountability (CfA), a nonprofit watchdog group focused on public accountability, released a new report, Trolling for Title X Funds, which documents the growth and deception of Obria, a network of anti-abortion, anti-birth control clinics that received a $1.7 million grant from the Trump administration to provide family planning services, and is set to receive an additional $3.4 million over the next two years.
CfA Counsel Alice Huling said, “Obria – a religious ministry masquerading as a healthcare group – has persuaded government officials to prop up its network of fake clinics to the detriment of American women. CfA’s research reveals that Obria has, over the last several decades, used government funding designated for other programs to cover the costs of operating its fake and misleading medical clinics. Federal officials should stop funding this deceptive group.”
On March 29, 2019, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) awarded $1.7 million in Title X funding to the Obria Group for the current year, and designated an additional $1.7 million for each of the grant’s subsequent two years. The Title X program is designed to award funding to healthcare providers that deliver comprehensive family planning services, including contraception. Obria, however, adamantly refuses to provide any contraception, including oral contraceptives, IUDs, or condoms.
CfA’s report provides a comprehensive history of Obria and reveals how the group has transformed from a single crisis pregnancy center (CPC) in California to a national umbrella organization seeking to wrest Title X Funds away from legitimate healthcare providers. Obria is a conglomerate of three nonprofits, including the Obria Group, the national umbrella organization of affiliate clinics; Obria Medical Clinics of Southern California, an affiliate network of CPCs; and Toby’s House, a defunct homeless shelter. Obria claims that it has 21 affiliate CPCs and 11 mobile clinics spread across five states including California, Georgia, Iowa, Oregon, and Washington. The number of affiliates and state participants fluctuates in Obria’s public materials.
Obria is run by Kathleen Eaton Bravo, a strident Catholic who has “earned national acclaim for her work creating several faith-based, pro-life ministries.” Ms. Bravo has said publicly that she started working at CPCs after she had an abortion in 1980. Notably, Obria has paid Ms. Bravo at least $1.8 million since 2003 while she also ran her own for-profit company.
Interestingly, Ms. Bravo has offered inconsistent explanations regarding the creation and growth of Obria. For instance, Ms. Bravo claims she “founded” Obria, but a different executive director filed Obria’s Articles of Incorporation in 1985, and Ms. Bravo does not appear on its state filings until 1993. Old versions of Obria’s website said it was set up in 1981.
Obria has repeatedly sought and received government funding for programs unrelated to its mission to pay for its operations and the salaries of its executives. For instance, Obria received hundreds of thousands of dollars from the Orange County Board of Supervisors for an abstinence education program, but funneled the money to its CPC, rather than to the entity it had purportedly set up explicitly to run its abstinence education programs.
Obria’s defunct homeless shelter, Toby’s House, received a total of $1.6 million in federal grants and used the funds to pay part of Ms. Bravo’s salary. When Toby’s House closed its facilities in 2012, it transferred more than $300,000 to Obria’s CPC.
Obria has also used its funds to pay two different organizations run by its leaders, including a construction company run by Ms. Bravo’s husband.
Obria markets its offices as full-service medical clinics, but the facilities provide very little healthcare. Obria’s smartphone app, for instance, states that the organization does not provide medical advice: “The Obria Medical Clinic Services are not a substitute for a formal consultation with a medical doctor or other qualified health care provider.” According to Medicaid data provided by the state of California, Obria’s Long Beach clinic served fewer than 11 MediCal patients during the entire year of 2016.
Notably, Obria does not offer any form of contraception, but it does offer what it calls the “abortion pill reversal.” This procedure allegedly enables a woman to counteract a medicinal abortion, but medical experts have been intensely critical of the procedure explaining that it is not based on science, and there are no medical studies supporting its efficacy or safety.
Obria’s activities have also raised concerns among public health officials. Family planning experts at the Washington State Department of Health described Obria as “slick” and “sneaky.” One official concluded, “the Obria group is also all about business – capturing market share (and shhhhhhh….making $).” Additionally, parents in Georgia confronted a local school board after an abstinence education program run by one of Obria’s affiliates employed objectionable methods that students said were “extremely damaging.”
Underpinning all of Obria’s activities is its pervasive religious ideology. Obria appears to screen job applicants, potential affiliates, and even patients to ensure they are sufficiently Christian. Obria, notably, has received millions of dollars from Catholic organizations including $750,000 from the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops in 2014, or about 25 percent of the total revenue Obria reported that year.
CfA has launched a campaign to investigate the Trump administration’s relationship with Obria, filing FOIA lawsuits against the administration and issuing a letter to HHS to review errors in Obria’s Title X application.
Ms. Huling continued, “Given that Obria doesn’t actually offer comprehensive contraception services, why is the government giving the group taxpayer funds designated for these services and what, exactly, is Obria doing with the money? HHS’s decision to fund this CPC group again reveals that the Trump administration is intent on eliminating American women’s access to reproductive healthcare.”
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.