In another attack on women’s reproductive rights, Trump’s evangelicals running the government are conspiring to attack Title X provisions and force primarily low-income families deeper into poverty based on a 1968 Vatican document.
Prior to the introduction of contraceptives such as birth control pills, there was no such thing as “family planning” save the only Vatican-approved “rhythm method” that may as well be no method based on its lack of efficacy compared to any and every other form of “family planning.” Apparently, the Vatican is more concerned with controlling sexual relations between consenting adults than they are families mired in poverty due to yearly pregnancies and the resulting offspring all but the wealthiest families can afford to provide for. The advent of oral contraceptives, and the Supreme Court ruling in Roe v. Wade, were giant steps forward in “family planning,” and combined with the enactment of Title X during Republican Richard Nixon’s administration, American families could rest easy that they did not have to be burdened with too many children they would struggle to support.
Now that the religious right controls America’s domestic policy, the Trump administration is taking another step to force women back to an era when they either abstained from normal sexual relations or suffered yearly pregnancies and poverty to make ends meet. It is noteworthy that before the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) convinced the so-called “moral majority” to embrace the Vatican’s prohibition on any kind of “artificial” birth control, the religious right was an ardent supporter of “family planning;” it helped their adherents avoid having 14 children to support.
Now they have made banning abortion and contraception their primary emotional dog whistle to keep the “faithful” voting for Republicans.
There is a devious reason dirty Donald Trump appointed Teresa Manning as the deputy assistant secretary of the office of population affairs at the evangelical-run Department of Health and Human Services; she is “a prominent anti-abortion advocate and former lobbyist for the National Right to Life Committee.” That organization claims to be “pro-life” when it has only ever been “pro forced birth.” Manning is renowned for saying that “contraceptives are medically irresponsible” and if anyone still believes the Trump evangelicals are not driven to make any “artificial family planning” non-existent, they are stupid. Banning all forms of birth control is the ultimate goal of the people running HHS because the Vatican prohibits “all forms of birth control” that are considered “artificial.”
Manning oversees Title X and intends to set evangelical-approved anti-choice terms for organizations obtaining grants under the federally-funded family planning program. Religious conservatives have hated Title X since the Reagan era and they plan to “reshape the program to fit the anti-abortion views of the [evangelical] administration.”
Specifically, the theocratic Trump administration is targeting funding for Planned Parenthood and any other group that provides family planning information that includes abortion. The federal government already prohibits taxpayer dollars funding abortions and the HHS plan readily acknowledges their goal is banning funding for family planning organizations that provide information the anti-women’s rights cretins find unacceptable.
It is worth noting that this latest attack is laser focused on the 4 to 5 million low-income families that depend on Title X for all manner of “family planning” assistance. The program was enacted in 1970 by Richard Nixon and its purpose was then, and still is today:
“To provide individuals with comprehensive family planning and related preventive health services. Title X is legally designed to prioritize the needs of low-income families or uninsured people (including those who are not eligible for Medicaid) who might not otherwise have access to these health care services. These services are provided to low-income and uninsured individuals at reduced or no cost. Its overall purpose is to promote positive birth outcomes and healthy families by allowing individuals to decide the number and spacing of their children. The other health services provided in Title X-funded clinics are integral in achieving this objective.” (author bold)
That objective, helping low-income families or uninsured people enjoy “positive birth outcomes and healthy families” is an atrocity to conservatives and they finally have an opportunity to, at least, reshape the program to meet anti-choice evangelicals’ demands. At most, because they are extraordinarily vicious, they will just abolish the program completely. It is noteworthy that the woman in charge of “reshaping” Title X today was a lobbyist for the same group that forced Reagan to enact severe restrictions in the 1980s in exchange for electoral support at the ballot box.
As the communications director for the National Family Planning and Reproductive Health Association (NFPRHA), Audrey Sandusky, said:
“This is the administration’s first attempt to really redefine what they want family planning to look like. We anticipate some attempt to undercut the program.” (author bold)
Title X supporters’ legitimate concern is that Trump’s evangelicals will prohibit funding for any clinics unwilling to toe the anti-choice line or may also provide abortions, restrict the type of services clinics can offer, place harsh limitations on accessing some types of birth control, or just drastically reduce funding for the program.
The big issue for the evangelicals running HHS and Title X now is to ban Title X “providers from offering abortion referrals or even mentioning abortion as a method of family planning.” According to the chief legal officer and general counsel for the evangelical Americans United for Life, Steve Aden:
“The best thing for health care and for women is that they receive [family planning services] in a [religious] setting that’s devoid of the possibility of Planned Parenthood pushing quote unquote options, when what they’re doing is referring them to the abortion facility.”
According to the most recent records available from 2015, through Title X, in that year alone Planned Parenthood helped low income women receive 800,000 Pap tests, one million breast cancer exams, and 6 million sexually transmitted infections (STI) tests. Planned Parenthood or any women’s health clinic does not exist to “push quote unquote” abortions; they are family planning clinics; at least until Trump’s evangelicals finish banning family planning that isn’t “natural” according to the 1968 encyclical Humanae Vitae.
These attacks on women’s right to self-determination regarding their reproductive health are coming fast and furious and they began shortly after Trump’s poorly-attended inauguration. Trump promptly signed a bill earlier in the year that rescinded a Title X rule enacted by President Obama that banned Republicans in the states from defunding Planned Parenthood for religious reasons, and it is no secret that Republicans in Congress want the women’s healthcare provider eliminated based solely on religious reasons.
The pro-choice organization, the Guttmacher Institute said “it would be naïve to think the [evangelical] Trump administration wouldn’t take the opportunity to put a flag in the ground on keeping Title X in tact. The administration has shown its cards in its opposition to abortion and providers who offer or are affiliated with abortion.”
It is noteworthy that abortion has been a legal medical procedure for 44 years and it has been assailed by the religious right since they lost their right to segregate schools in the South on pain of losing their religious tax exemption. It is unclear what part of legal the Trump evangelicals fail to comprehend, but women should beware that the “personhood” malcontents running the federal government are not going to be content banning abortions, legal or otherwise. They have been relentless for 40-odd years despite being smacked down by federal courts including the Supreme Court. They are, through their Republican facilitators, not going to rest until they have complete control over women’s reproductive health; including banning contraceptives.
Remember, Republicans are setting a dangerous precedent with their absurd notion that the moment of conception is a living American being worthy of constitutional rights superseding those of the woman. According to “the moment of conception” acolytes, anything that prevents ‘fertilization’ is abortion; see Hobby Lobby ruling.
These assaults on women’s rights are only going to get worse and with Trump appointing anti-women’s rights federal judges for life, it does not look promising for women’s reproductive rights much less the concept of “family planning.” And it should not surprise anyone that this latest threat targets low-income families who are on the verge of paying higher taxes, losing their healthcare and nutrition assistance. When Title X is reshaped to meet the evangelical family planning standards, those low-income families will lose their right to “decide the number and spacing of their children” because those decisions will be the purview of Trump’s evangelicals running the federal government.