The Trump administration is revamping the nation's family planning program to prioritize abstinence-only and religious-based counseling.
The Trump administration announced Friday that it plans to cut funding for the Title X family planning program and prioritize funding for abstinence-only and religious-based programs.
By eliminating the Obama administration’s emphasis on all forms of contraception, the move also marks another attempt by Trump — who remains obsessed with President Obama — to undo the progress made by his predecessor in any and all ways possible.
“The Trump-Pence administration is quietly taking aim at access to birth control under the nation’s program for affordable reproductive health care, which 4 million people rely on each year,” said Dawn Laguens, executive vice president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America, according to Politico.
“This is a clear attempt to roll back access to the type of birth control that most women want to use. The last thing anyone wants is for Donald Trump or Mike Pence to weigh in on her sex life — but this announcement essentially invites them into the bedroom.”
The federal Title X family planning program currently funds nearly 4,000 family planning sites nationwide and provides services to more than 4 million low-income women and men each year. Grants distributed through Title X are used to fund services provided by state and local public health departments, as well as family planning organizations, community health centers, and other private nonprofit agencies.
In Friday’s announcement, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) provided a budget that cuts $20 million from the previous year’s funding level.
The announcement also emphasizes HHS’s new priorities, which include programs that place a special emphasis on encouraging “committed, safe, stable, healthy marriages” and focus on “the benefits of avoiding sexual risk or returning to a sexually risk-free status, especially when communicating with adolescents.”
HHS also says they will prioritize programs that “that do not normalize sexual risk behaviors [among adolescents], but instead clearly communicate the research informed benefits of delaying sex or returning to a sexually risk-free status.”
Essentially, HHS wants to replace evidence-based family planning methods with abstinence-based programming, which is not just ineffective, but dangerous. It also threatens to undo significant progress in reducing teen pregnancy and unintended pregnancy — progress that was made in large part due to comprehensive sex education and access to birth control.
While providers like Planned Parenthood will not be barred from applying for funding, the emphasis on applicants with religious backgrounds and abstinence counseling will make it harder for comprehensive pregnancy prevention programs to obtain federal funding. Planned Parenthood provides services to an estimated 41 percent of all Title X patients, most of whom are low-income women.
It doesn’t exactly come as a surprise that the Trump administration is using Title X to attack birth control. Valerie Huber, the new head of the Title X office, was president of an abstinence-only advocacy group prior to joining HHS, and has expressed her doubts about the effectiveness of evidence-based pregnancy prevention programs.
Huber has also said she prefers the term “sexual risk avoidance” because it avoids the negative connotations that abstinence-only programs have rightly earned. That language is used throughout Friday’s announcement.
Also at HHS is radical anti-abortion activist Charmaine Yoest, who was appointed by Trump last April. Among Yoest’s many extremist beliefs is her desire to ban all forms of birth control.
And then there’s Mike Pence, one of the leaders in the war on women’s health, who once absurdly described condoms as “very, very poor protection.”
Friday’s announcement comes just a week after it was revealed that the Trump administration allegedly worked with a hate group called Alliance for Defending Freedom to make it easier for states to defund Planned Parenthood.
These policies explain why women are fighting back in unprecedented numbers, with a record-breaking 30,000 women ready to run for office. And it’s not just Trump who will pay the price. Asked which party they would vote for in the midterm elections, 64 percent of American women in a recent ABC News/Washington Post poll said they would choose a Democratic candidate, compared to just 29 percent for Republicans — a stunning 35-point advantage for Democrats.
Republicans may want to deny that the war on women’s health is happening, but millions of American women are standing on the battlefield — and for them, it couldn’t get more real than this. In November, the GOP will see just how real it is, too.