20 Attorneys General Sign Brief Supporting Planned Parenthood’s Lawsuit Against HHS Over New Funding Criteria

Photo Credit: Charlotte Cooper

20 attorneys general have signed an amicus brief supporting Planned Parenthood’s lawsuit against the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) for altering its Title X funding criteria to prefer groups that promote abstinence and work with faith-based entities. They claim that the new standards will negatively affect the ability of women to contribute to the economy due to pregnancy, and assert that contraceptives conversely benefit “women’s broader health, financial independence and social well-being.”

The brief is led by Xavier Becerra, the attorney general of California, who filed criminal charges against pro-life investigator David Daleiden for recording his discussions with Planned Parenthood while posing as a buyer of baby body parts.

“Defendants’ new preference for clinics that emphasize abstinence-only and ‘historically underrepresented’ methods of family planning, set forth for the first time in the FOA application review criteria, would not improve family planning care but would be a step backward,” it asserts.

“Enabling women to reliably plan pregnancies contributes to their educational and professional advancement. Women’s use of oral contraceptives positively affects their education, labor force participation, and average earnings, narrowing the gender-based wage gap,” the brief states.

As previously reported, Planned Parenthood filed suit against HHS earlier this month after it rolled out its 2018 Funding Opportunity Announcement (FOA), which outlines that, going forward, applicants for Title X funding should encourage “avoiding sexual risk.”

Planned Parenthood interprets this notation as referring to abstinence, and asserts that the Trump administration is attempting to “push people toward abstinence or pressure women into marriage.”

Among the application review criteria includes the notation that organizations should place “[a] meaningful emphasis on education and counseling that communicates the social science research and practical application of topics related to healthy relationships, to committed, safe, stable, healthy marriages, and the benefits of avoiding sexual risk or returning to a sexually risk-free status, especially (but not only) when communicating with adolescents.”

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It also recommends “[a]ctivities for adolescents that do not normalize sexual risk behaviors, but instead clearly communicate the research informed benefits of delaying sex or returning to a sexually risk-free status.”

Planned Parenthood therefore bemoaned in its lawsuit, filed on behalf of affiliates in Wisconsin, Ohio and Utah, that the 2018 application criteria “now give[s] the most weight to new ‘program priorities’ and ‘key issues,’ such as placing ‘meaningful emphasis’ on abstinence as an approach to birth control (even for adults), providing onsite primary care, and cooperating with faith-based organizations.”

It argued that the criteria violates the statutory mandate that Title X recipients must provide “acceptable and effective” family planning services, as Planned Parenthood doesn’t believe promoting abstinence is effective.

“Abstinence prevents pregnancy and STIs when used perfectly, but in reality it has extremely high rates of ‘user failure’—that is, people often decide to have sex, even if they had previously intended to abstain from sex,” the complaint argued. “Emphasizing abstinence to adult patients would be particularly inappropriate.”

“Indeed, placing a ‘meaningful emphasis’ on abstinence until marriage to an unmarried, healthy adult woman who wishes to be sexually active, and who comes to a health center for an IUD, would not only be a coercive and egregious clinical practice, but would disrespect the patient’s dignity as an individual … and could be understood as refusing service based on marital status,” it asserted.

In the amicus brief signed this week by 20 attorneys general, it was similarly posited that the new abstinence promotion criteria is less effective, and will “result in serious harm” because contraceptives are beneficial to society’s interests.

“The burdens that result from restricting access to or information about reproductive healthcare, including information about contraception, often fall disproportionately on a state’s most vulnerable residents, including low-income women and women of color,” the signees claim. “And apart from the intrinsic value of protecting residents’ constitutional right to procreative choice, the states know from experience that restricting access to reproductive healthcare also burdens the public.”

The brief further asserts that encouraging “natural family planning” over contraception use affects the “economic productivity” of women.

“[L]imiting access to contraception would cause social and economic repercussions flowing from lost opportunities for affected women to succeed in the classroom, participate in the workforce, and contribute as taxpayers. These are lifelong consequences for women and their families, and for the states. Restricting the economic productivity of their residents necessarily harms the states as well,” it states.

It also argues that having babies too soon or too often can result in health issues for the infant, and that using contraceptives to prevent pregnancy keep a woman’s “preexisting health conditions from worsening and new health problems from occurring, because pregnancy may exacerbate existing health conditions such as diabetes, hypertension, and heart disease.”

Signees include the attorneys general of California, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Virginia, Vermont, Washington and the District of Columbia.

View the brief in full here.

1 Thessalonians 4:3-5 states, “For this is the will of God, even your sanctification, that ye should abstain from fornication, that every one of you should know how to possess his vessel in sanctification and honor, not in the lust of concupiscence, even as the Gentiles which know not God.”

Hebrews 13:4 also warns, “Marriage is honorable in all, and the bed undefiled, but whoremongers and adulterers God will judge.”

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