As a way to further its agenda to restrict access to abortion and contraception, the Trump administration announced that it will grant up to $5.1 million in funds geared towards family planning to a nonprofit organization tied to the Catholic Church called the Obria Group.
The grant, which will dish out $1.7 million in its first year followed by separate distributions of the same amount in the following two years, only shows a piece of the awarded money being used. Many people who are either supporters or opposers of abortion say that the redirection of the large amount of funds is being used to defund medical clinics that provide abortions and other forms of family planning, such as Planned Parenthood.
The grant is funded by Title X, which controls subsidizing birth control, cancer screenings and other medical care for low-income patients. Title X does not cover abortion services, and affiliates of Planned Parenthood use separate funding to provide that service. However, now that they are under President Trump, the Department of Health and Human Services have introduced program changes that make it harder for clinics that perform abortions to qualify for funds, while faith-based groups like Obria have a higher chance to qualify for funds to end abortion rights and some forms of contraception.
Planned Parenthood and other democratic states have filed lawsuits to combat the proposed changes. Other advocacy groups demand for investigations into claims of preference for faith-based groups and added that the changes would be depriving thousands of at-risk women of critical health care.
“The Trump administration is more interested in courting religious ideologies than in providing real health care to low-income Americans,” stated Alice Huling, counsel for the Campaign for Accountability, a left-leaning watchdog organization, in reference to the Title X changes and the awarded grant to Obria.
On the other hand, the grant was seen as a victory for the pro-life movement.
“For decades, multiple Congresses and presidential administrations, the pro-life movement has fought to at least slow federal tax subsidies for abortion providers but has failed to do so—until now,” said Tim Head, president of advocacy group Faith & Freedom Coalition.
Under Trump, employers have been able to claim religious or moral objections to the Affordable Care Act’s requirement that they should provide employees insurance coverage for contraception while making it hard for Planned Parenthood to obtain federal funds for such services.
Instead, the Trump administration and Republican-controlled state governments have redirected federal monies to programs that prevent teenage pregnancy, promote abstinence and run crisis pregnancy centers that offer ultrasounds, prenatal care and testing and treatment for sexually transmitted diseases, all the while guiding women away from abortion and hormonal birth control.
The grants announced on March 29 that they will dispense $256 million for the fiscal year with $1.7 million going to Obria. The group said in a statement that over the course of three years, the group would receive $5.1 million to expand services in four California counties.
“With this grant, the administration has opened up a new avenue of health care choices for low income and underserved women and their families in California,” said founder and chief executive of Obria, Kathleen Eaton Bravo.
Obria was created in the 1990s, and was originally under the name “Birth Choice Pregnancy Centers” as a volunteer-run nonprofit group that ran a few crisis pregnancy centers in Southern California. The nonprofit gradually added doctors, nurses and medical services to its program. Their various locations got licensed as medical clinics, allowing them to collect payments from Medicaid and private insurance companies, and to qualify for some government grants. The group started expanding beyond California by recruiting crisis pregnancy centers as partners in a fledgling nationwide network.
Two nonprofit groups make up Obira; Obira Medical Clinics and Obria Group. Both groups have raised over $25 million dollars within the last 20 years through fundraising. Although many of the donors cannot be traced, a donor identified by the Campaign for Accountability turned up to be associated with the Catholic Church, a known opposer of abortion and many forms of contraception.
The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, which is made up of the country’s Catholic leadership, donated $2.5 million to Obria according to tax filings. The Roman Catholic Bishop of Orange donated another $560,000. A spokeswoman said that the donation was money made from the sale of roses on Mother’s Day. Wealthy Southern California social conservative and real estate investor, Charles J. Schreiber Jr. and his wife donated over $1.1 million to the organization.