February 20, 2020 Press Releases, Themis Project

Watchdog Files FOIA Lawsuit Against HHS Seeking Records about Title X Family Planning and Teen Pregnancy Prevention Programs

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: February 20, 2020

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

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, Campaign for Accountability (CfA), a nonprofit watchdog group focused on public accountability, filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit against the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), seeking documents responsive to four FOIA requests regarding the Title X Family Planning program and the Teen Pregnancy Prevention (TPP) program.

Click here to view the complaint (FOIA requests attached as exhibits).

CfA Counsel Alice Huling said, “The Title X and TPP programs are designed to provide preventative healthcare services and education to millions of Americans. The public deserves to know how HHS is administering these taxpayer-funded programs. HHS should immediately comply with the law and release the requested records.”

Between July and October 2019, CfA submitted four FOIA requests to HHS. In July 2019, CfA requested application materials prepared by The Obria Group, Inc. (Obria) seeking funding through the TPP program. In August 2019, CfA requested communications regarding the effect that the implementation of the revised Title X rule will have on the 340B Drug Pricing Program.  On October 3, 2019, CfA submitted a FOIA request seeking the supplemental Title X applications submitted by Obria and Beacon Christian Community Health Center (Beacon) and on October 7, 2019, CfA requested a list of organizations that had applied for supplemental Title X funding.

The TPP Program is a federal grant program that provides funding for evidence-based, medically accurate, and age appropriate programs to reduce adolescent pregnancy. Obria, a network of crisis pregnancy centers that does not support the use of contraception, including condoms, beyond fertility awareness, offers sexual health education programming focused exclusively on abstinence.  This programming appears to be the same as the programming for which Obria also receives Title V and Title X funding. CfA is requesting a copy of Obria’s TPP program application to see how its proposed TPP project compares to its other federally funded projects.

After HHS announced its revised Title X rule barring clinics that provide or refer for abortion services from the program, 23 percent of the sites providing Title X services left the program. Alarmingly, Politico reported that health clinics exiting the Title X program may have had to “destroy or return tens of thousands of dollars of contraceptives and other medications.” CfA seeks documents pertaining to the potential decision by HHS to require destruction of reproductive healthcare products that would have otherwise been available to low income Americans.

Additionally, in October 2019 CfA filed two FOIAs seeking information about supplemental funding awarded to 2019 Title X grant recipients. In September 2019, HHS offered current Title X grantees an opportunity to apply for additional Title X funding in an effort to fill the gaps left in the program after implementation of the agency’s Title X rule change. CfA requested copies of the applications submitted by the faith-based grantees, Obria and Beacon, to learn about the implementation of these new grantees’ projects. CfA also requested documents to identify which Title X grantees applied for additional funding.

HHS has not responded to any of these requests. CfA is filing this lawsuit to force HHS to comply with the FOIA.

Ms. Huling continued, “HHS is legally required to respond to FOIA requests in a timely manner. Americans are entitled to information about how their government works.  Watchdog organizations shouldn’t have to file a lawsuit just to obtain information that belongs to the public.”

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.