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Washington DC - On Tuesday, POLITICO reported on the new decision-making authorities granted to Valerie Huber, a noted abstinence advocate, in her role overseeing the nation’s birth control program, Title X. The Title X funding opportunity announcement (FOA) gives new authority to Huber to decide what services and health care providers are available to the four million people who rely on the nation’s family planning program for their birth control and reproductive health care information.

POLITICO reports, “Now, for the first time, the final decision of who gets the (Title X) funding will be in the hands of one person — Valerie Huber, the acting deputy assistant secretary for population affairs at HHS, a longtime advocate of abstinence.”

This is a major departure from previous FOAs, which had regional health administrators (RHAs) making final decisions, in consultation with the deputy assistant secretary for population affairs, the assistant secretary for health, and other staff.

Statement from Dawn Laguens, Executive Vice President, Planned Parenthood Federation of America:

This is outrageous and dangerous. Valerie Huber has pushed to mandate abstinence pledges. Now, the Trump-Pence administration is handing her the future of the country’s program for affordable birth control. It is unprecedented to give decision-making power for millions of dollars in family planning funding to just one individual, let alone someone who promotes abstinence only until marriage.

Four million people rely on the Title X program for basic reproductive health care, and more than 1.5 million of those people rely on Planned Parenthood health centers for care. In many cases, it’s their only form of health care.

Not only does the Trump-Pence administration’s Title X FOA give new decision-making power to Valerie Huber, but the FOA also radically shifts the program’s priorities:

  • First, the announcement is designed to penalize reproductive health care providers and make it harder for women to access expert reproductive health care under the program. The announcement does this by attempting to:
    • Block women from going to expert reproductive health care providers, and instead pushing them to go to providers that emphasize abstinence only and don’t provide the full range of birth control methods, like IUDs or the birth control shot.
    • Open the door to anti-abortion counseling centers’ participation in the program. 
  • Second, the announcement is clearly designed to roll back access to the most effective forms of birth control.
    • In a clear shift in priorities, the call for applications removes references to Quality Family Planning recommendations, the national standard of clinical care for family planning services produced by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the U.S. Office of Population Affairs.
    • The call for applications also removes references to ensuring access to the 18 FDA-approved contraceptive methods. Similarly, consistent with a leaked White House memo that promoted fertility awareness methods under the program, the term “natural family planning” — a reference to fertility awareness methods like the rhythm method or calendar method — appears six times, but the term “Long Acting Reversible Contraceptives (LARC),” the most effective methods of birth control that have been growing in popularity, doesn’t appear once.

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Planned Parenthood is the nation’s leading provider and advocate of high-quality, affordable health care for women, men, and young people, as well as the nation’s largest provider of sex education. With more than 600 health centers across the country, Planned Parenthood affiliates serve all patients with care and compassion, with respect and without judgment. Through health centers, programs in schools and communities, and online resources, Planned Parenthood is a trusted source of reliable health information that allows people to make informed health decisions. We do all this because we care passionately about helping people lead healthier lives.