Recently, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) released woefully late guidelines for the Title X national family planning program. The guidelines failed to include a single mention of the word “contraceptives” and instead pivoted to right-wing priorities like abstinence education and “fertility awareness.”
The far rightward shift of the program’s guidelines is reflective of the HHS political appointees’ backgrounds who have been tasked with running Title X. Title X at its core is a program to provide contraception. Yet notably, all appointees reject the importance of contraception in family planning decisions. Their beliefs fly in the face of medical science and the evidence-based, positive outcomes of this program.
Read our fact sheet for run down of the program in 2016 and today: Title X_ Then and Now
If past is prologue and – as President Reagan’s oft repeated adage says – if personnel is policy, it is clear where the Title X program is headed. Trump’s appointees have shifted Title X to reflect a far more conservative, limited view of reproductive health.
The Title X program is administered by the Office of Population Affairs (OPA), which reports up to the Assistant Secretary for Health.
Politico: Abstinence advocate gets final say on family planning dollars
From a review of the HHS website and HHS employee directory, Equity Forward determined that the following individuals who have administrative oversight for Title X have personal backgrounds and beliefs that are antithetical to the program.
Why Title X Matters
The primary purpose of Title X for the past 40 years has been to provide low- or no-cost birth control to low-income people across the U.S. This has been true throughout Republican and Democratic administrations since Nixon first signed the Family Planning Services and Population Research Act of 1970.
As a result of our national commitment to ensuring widespread availability of high-quality family planning, made possible in large part by Title X, the teen birth rate has dropped to an all-time low and the abortion rate has also reached a historic low. While the federal government invests roughly $300 million in Title X annually, a recent study by the Guttmacher Institute found that the program can be credited with saving state and federal governments roughly $7 billion a year.
Today we are seeing the Trump Administration fundamentally reimagine the program to be one that – rather than supporting birth control access and reproductive freedom – prioritizes fertility and an antiquated view of the family.
Title X has a legacy of providing “a broad range of FDA-approved contraceptive methods.” Despite that, HHS has removed references to contraception altogether from the grant guidelines. And as reported by the Wall Street Journal, “For the first time, it sets up a point system that favors certain characteristics, giving preference, for example, to faith-based clinics and clinics that counsel abstinence for teenagers.”
This is a critical issue of economic and social importance to more than 4 million people across the country who rely on Title X to help them decide if and when to have children. It is apparent that Title X’s long history of bipartisan, evidence-based work is in jeopardy with Valerie Huber, Cathy Deeds, and others at the helm.
Legislators on Capitol Hill should watch closely as this season of grant applications and awards plays out.