President Joe Biden’s Department of Health and Human Services is weaponizing its grant-giving power against states that refuse to use taxpayer dollars to fund abortions.
HHS originally awarded $4.5 million to the Oklahoma State Department of Health (OSDH) this year for “family planning services,” which are historically defined as pregnancy prevention, testing, and counseling as well as sexually transmitted infection and disease testing and treatment, and other preventative screenings.
The same bureaucratic arm that funneled hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars to known pro-abortion activists last year, however, is now penalizing Oklahoma for keeping taxpayer funds away from abortions, by withholding the Title X grant worth millions.
OSDH announced in late May that HHS’s Office of Population Affairs “determined our Title X program is out of compliance” due to differences between the Biden administration’s abortion policy and Oklahoma state law.
In a June 1 letter to HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra exclusively obtained by The Federalist, Oklahoma Republicans Sens. James Lankford and Markwayne Mullin and Reps. Josh Brecheen, Stephanie Bice, Kevin Hern, Frank Lucas, and Tom Cole demanded the “immediate reinstallation” of the award and warned that “HHS’ interpretation and application of the obligations of grantees under federal statute” is wrong and will “substantially harm our constituency.”
“Abortion is not family planning; it is family destruction. Every abortion takes an unborn child’s life. Oklahoma’s laws protect women and unborn children from the violence of abortion in the interest of promoting families, keeping Oklahomans safe, and protecting life. OSDH’s decision to follow federal and state law by protecting unborn life and seeking the welfare of individual patients and their families is a noble one,” the legislators wrote.
The federal agency’s decision to suspend the grant, the Republicans said, “is jeopardizing the health care of Oklahomans and has no legitimate legal foundation.”
“Rather, HHS is interpreting laws and regulations through a political lens and ignoring clear parameters of the statutes enacted by Congress,” they concluded.
The Oklahoma legislators said that their state’s health department legally “serves 30,000 Oklahomans in need of these free or low-cost services” but, thanks to HHS’s recent decision, those people are now “caught in the crossfire of HHS’ continued work to promote abortion while neglecting conscience protections.”
“In addition to the willful ignorance and disregard of the underlying statute and applicable conscience protections, it is difficult to imagine a more egregious contradiction of the plain text of an implementing regulation than this,” the Republicans wrote.
Contrary to the Biden HHS’s misinterpretation, Section 1008 of Title X prohibits taxpayer dollars from funding programs that aid or provide abortion. The Weldon Amendment, similarly, says the government can’t discriminate against grantees “on the basis that the health care entity does not provide, pay for, provide coverage of, or refer for abortions.”
“Weldon’s prohibition against discrimination could not be clearer: no funds appropriated to HHS can be used to discriminate against a health care entity for not referring for abortions. Yet, that is exactly what HHS is doing by suspending OSDH’s award,” the legislators argued.
Congress also annually reaffirms that Title X funds “shall not be expended for abortions.”
“HHS cannot simply will words to mean what they do not; we are a country governed by the rule of law. When the law says ‘no funds,’ Congress really means ‘no funds,’” the members of Congress warned. “The Biden administration’s obsession with abortion seems to know no end.”
Under the Trump administration, that restriction was expanded to require institutions receiving taxpayer dollars under Title X to physically separate their medical care and abortion activities. This change prompted abortion businesses such as Planned Parenthood and several states to opt out of receiving Title X funds in an attempt to avoid regulation of their continued promotion of ending life in the womb.
Under the Biden administration, those rules were reversed. As of November 2021, programs operating on Title X funding were not only allowed to advise abortions on the taxpayer dime under the guise of legitimate “family planning care,” but they were encouraged to by the radically pro-abortion-for-all White House.
Not only does federal law say taxpayers shouldn’t be forced to fund abortions or abortion promotion, but some states also have laws explicitly prohibiting the mixing of federal funds and abortion. Oklahoma specifically limits taxpayer funds for prenatal and postnatal services to “provide health care services for pregnant women, decrease infant mortality and facilitate the birth of a live child.” “Health care services,” the state’s statutes warn, “does not include abortion, abortion referral, or abortion counseling.”
“Nevertheless, HHS has chosen to prioritize abortion instead of prioritizing actual health care, by suspending Title X funding awarded to OSDH because of its obligation to abide by federal law and the state laws of Oklahoma,” the Republicans wrote. “It is absurd that HHS is suspending funds previously granted to OSDH for its refusal to refer for a procedure that the underlying federal statute explicitly forbids.”
The legislators gave Becerra until June 12th to “reverse the suspension of OSDH’s award without delay.” If HHS does not, it could face backlash from more than just Republican Oklahoma legislators. Every year since 1976, Congress has voted to pass the Hyde Amendment, which bans taxpayer dollars from funding abortions.