By Tom Venzor
In an unprecedented policy shift, Nebraska’s Department of Health and Human Services (“DHHS”) will no longer be Nebraska’s Title X grant recipient. Instead, the federal government has awarded the grant funds to a private organization, Family Planning Council of Nebraska. This development negatively affects the Nebraska Legislature’s ability to ensure that Title X grant funds, consisting of taxpayer dollars, are not used to subsidize the abortion industry.
Background on Title X Program. Title X is a federal grant program which mostly consists of the morally problematic, widespread distribution of contraception for low-income women and men. The program, however, also includes important preventative health services such as annual well-woman exams, STD testing and treatment, and HPV testing and vaccinations.
The federal government distributes Title X funds to grant recipients following an application process. Until this year, Nebraska DHHS has been the only grant recipient. As the grant recipient, DHHS would distribute Title X funds to sub-grantees. Over the years, the sub-grantees consisted of Planned Parenthood, federally qualified health centers, and other organizations. Historically, Planned Parenthood received the most funding of all the Title X sub-grantees.
This year, the Family Planning Council of Nebraska also applied as a grant recipient. Through the application process, they were chosen as the sole administrator of Nebraska’s Title X funds. They were awarded a three-year contract worth $6 million.
In recent news coverage, a Family Planning Council representative said the organization applied for the Title X funds because Governor Ricketts has “continued to use the state budget process for ideological purposes.” In other words, the organization was disgruntled with the Nebraska Legislature’s adoption of common-sense pro-life policy that prohibited Title X funds from being distributed to organizations that perform, assist with, counsel in favor of, or refer for abortion.
Who Is the Family Planning Council? According to their website, the Family Planning Council of Nebraska is a non-profit corporation established in 1991 “to ensure that every Nebraskan has access to quality family planning and sexual and reproductive health services” and “to provide funding, technical assistance, and support to our network of grantee clinics” in the provision of such services.
Family Planning Council’s Facebook page contains two notable features. The cover photo is simple: four jars of condoms. And its “About” description is one word: “contraceptives.”
Their communications firm, Conway Strategic, represents or has represented a myriad of abortion rights advocates, such as the Center for Reproductive Freedom, National Network of Abortion Funds, and the ACLU Reproductive Freedom Project.
While the proverb is that “politics makes for odd bedfellows,” in this case politics makes for the usual suspects who share in the same fundamental goal: the provision of artificial contraception and the proliferation of access to abortion services on demand—root evils of the culture of death.
Title X: Moving Forward. Since Nebraska DHHS is no longer the Title X grant recipient, there are now substantial roadblocks to implementing pro-life safeguards in the budget. Last year’s pro-life budget provision was based on the State of Nebraska having control over the funds and its ability to implement program integrity rules which carry out Congress’ express will to keep Title X funds from being commingled with abortion. In short, the budget is no longer an avenue for protecting Title X taxpayer dollars from the abortion industry—a major setback for the pro-life movement.
Federal Developments. The hopeful side is that the federal DHHS has followed Nebraska’s lead. They have proposed new rules and regulations which would, among other things, accomplish similar pro-life protections for the Title X program that Nebraska implemented last year. This means our work here was not in vain but will have a larger national application.
Unfortunately, 22 Attorneys General have already filed a law suit against these rules and regulations. Most likely, the litigation will take place in California, where their Attorney General is likely to find a favorable judge to impose a legal injunction, meaning that the rules and regulations cannot be enforced while in litigation. The litigation is likely to extend through the Trump Presidency. But if there is a point of resolution in the next Presidency, the outcome should be favorable to the pro-life policy.
Vigilance for Life. These Title X developments are yet another indication that our work in building a culture of life must always be met with vigilance. There is no greater cultural and political battle that garners our attention as the fight to protect unborn life. Continue to offer your prayers and lend your voice to the political process to help advance the culture of life.