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Bad Faith, Bad Care and Bad Data

The Unholy Trinity Behind Trump’s Religious War on Family Planning

By Leslie Belt, Contributer

With the exception of “all men are created equal,” few of America’s founding principles have been more manipulated or exploited than religious liberty. Part moral mood ring, part judge, jury and executioner, religious freedom has long served as the national patron saint of slippery slopes. Throughout American history, however, no president has slipped further or faster down from the majestic peak of protection for and from religion codified by the first amendment than Donald J. Trump.

Since his “election” in 2016, Trump and the submissive cabal of old, white congressmen in his thrall have been ruthless in their attacks on sexual and reproductive health and rights in service to their conservative agenda. To date, 2019 has been a blessed year for these con men for Christ as they legislated themselves a giant lockstep closer to fulfilling their God-given desire to rip a hole in our nation’s family planning safety net.

Signed into law by Richard Nixon in 1970, Title X of the Public Health Act set up the first national program to fund family planning services for low income, uninsured, young and otherwise disadvantaged Americans. For nearly 50 years, the program has affirmed the reproductive autonomy of those it serves through funding support to safety net health centers providing high-quality family planning information and services free from coercion, violence or retribution. California receives the largest share of Title X funds in the country. In 2018, an excess of 260,000 people, including more than 28,000 African Americans and 53,000 Latinx individuals, received family planning and related care at Title X-funded health centers in Los Angeles County.

In March 2019, the Trump administration’s Office of Population Affairs issued sweeping new regulations, collectively referred to as the “domestic gag rule,” for the federal Title X family planning program. In a nutshell, these new regulations:

  • Block federal funds to family planning providers that also offer abortion services, as well as prohibit referrals to abortion providers, and eliminate requirements for non-directive pregnancy options counseling that includes information about prenatal care/delivery, adoption, and abortion.
  • Prioritize providers that offer comprehensive primary health care services over those that specialize in reproductive health services.
  • Encourage participation by “non-traditional” organizations such as those that only offer one method of family planning (e.g. fertility awareness-based methods).

It is important to note that to date Title X has never been used to fund a single abortion. Nonetheless, according to analysis by the Kaiser Family Foundation the primary goal of these new regulations is to block the availability of federal funds to family planning providers, such as Planned Parenthood, that also offer abortion services with non-Title X funds, as well as to prohibit sites that receive Title X funds from referring pregnant patients to other providers for abortion services.

Although the August 2019 announcement that Planned Parenthood would leave the federal Title X family planning program rather than comply with the new rules was not unexpected, it was bad news. Especially for patients who are likely to see longer wait times or increased costs for reproductive health services as a result. Planned Parenthood has long been the largest Title X provider in the country, serving 40 percent of all Title X patients.  Within Los Angeles County, Planned Parenthood operates 23 clinics, including Health Centers in Long Beach, Carson and Compton. Planned Parenthood is not, however, the only local organization forced to make this difficult choice. In total, 41 Title X clinics in Los Angeles County will forego federal funding in light of the new restrictions.

Perhaps in an effort to pick up some of this slack, the Trump Administration recently awarded $1.7 million in federal family planning funds to Obria, a Christian medical chain headquartered in Orange County. But before you let out a big sigh of relief, you should know that Obria does not offer access to hormonal birth control or condoms. Obria’s doctors and nurses teach their lucky patients cutting edge techniques to help them manage their fertility, as well as all of those pesky carnal desires.

Frankly, it’s an approach that falls far short of the expectation that clinics receiving Title X funding also provide services to detect, treat and prevent sexually transmitted diseases and HIV. But no need to worry taxpayers. According to Obria’s application for these coveted federal funds, we can count on its staff of highly trained providers to shoulder this responsibility as they diligently “emphasize that avoiding sex is the only 100-percent method to prevent pregnancy and STDs” and teach patients about “high-risk behaviors” and the “risks of using ‘safe-sex’ methods.”

California Voters All In for Access

87 percent of participants in a 2019 poll of California voters support access to birth control for everyone who wants it regardless of ability to pay, including:

  • 76 percent of men
  • 76 percent of Independents
  • 62 percent of Republicans
  • 93 percent of Democrats
  • 85 percent of Millennials
  • 81 percent of Catholics
  • 77 percent of Protestants

Of Californian voters who believe abortion is wrong and should be illegal:

  • 62 percent believe access to birth control is important
  • 61 percent are concerned about the Trump administration’s changes to Title X

Source: Essential Access Health data from 2019 poll conducted by Lake Research Partners.

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