Citing ‘New Friends in Washington,’ Heartbeat International Encourages Anti-Choice Clinics To Apply For Federal Funds

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
Photo: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services via Flickr

Heartbeat International, a large network of anti-choice “pregnancy resource centers” that says it “does not promote birth control,” is encouraging its members to apply for federal family planning grants in order to “redirect” federal funds away from organizations like Planned Parenthood.

An email today from Heartbeat president Jor-El Godsey directs the group’s members to an HHS webinar for groups interested in applying for Title X family planning funding. He writes:

New friends in Washington, D.C. need life-affirming grant applicants!

With the pro-life emphasis being championed by Vice President Mike Pence, many new pro-life faces in the administration are opening opportunities to bring federal help to effective, life-affirming service providers like yours.

While there are plenty of ways to understand our role in relationship to receiving federal funds, the reality is that these funds will go to someone. Why not life-affirming outreaches like yours?

Who knows, maybe this is our chance to help our friends in Washington not just “de-fund,” but redirect funds to life-affirming, biblically based beacons of hope like yours.

Jezebel reported last month that new HHS guidance could open the door to exactly this kind of funding redirection to anti-choice pregnancy centers that not only try to prevent women from accessing abortion but are also often opposed to providing information about birth control:

But the new Title X rules go even farther, not simply taking indirect aim at Planned Parenthood but also opening the grant program to crisis clinics and other faith-based organization at the expense of organizations that provide birth control (abortion care was never covered by Title X). The grant program is now based on a new points system that, among other things, works to favor providers that “assist in the establishment and operation of voluntary family planning projects which shall offer a broad range of acceptable and effective family planning methods and services (including natural family planning methods, infertility services, and services for adolescents.)” “Natural family planning,” which the rules note is now called “Fertility Awareness Based Methods,” is exactly what it sounds like.

Though the new Title X language encourages the “applications for all methods,” but throughout the document fails to mention contraception, birth control, or Quality Family Planning recommendations which are the national standard of care for family planning services used by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, as well as the US Office of Population Affairs. It does, however, mention “natural family planning” numerous times.

In addition, the new rules encourage groups who offer “a holistic vision of health and those historically underrepresented in the Title X program,” to apply for the grant program. Experts argue that much of the language is tailored to crisis clinics who are one of the few organizations that offer abstinence-only education or natural family planning. But if the language signals to crisis clinics that they are now eligible for Title X grants, then the specifics of the rules are even clearer. The grant program is designed to encourage providers that offer a single method of family planning like the kind of natural family planning offered by religious providers, as well award them points under the new system. The guidelines state that “single providers who have developed expertise in one family planning approach or method may be partners in a broader proposal that offers a broad range of family planning methods.”

As Peter reported back in 2015, Heartbeat International says that it “does not promote birth control (devices or medications) for family planning, population control, or health issues, including disease prevention.”