Biden Admin's ONE WEIRD TRICK To Get Health Care $$$ Around Red State Govs!
Last May, the Montana state Legislature passed a bill (HB 620) barring the state from entering into a contract with any entity that performs an abortion, or provides "abortion referrals, or counseling in favor of abortion." This was likely in anticipation of the Biden administration doing away with Trump's domestic gag rule, which barred any entity that referred or counseled abortions from receiving Title X funds. The Biden administration did indeed trash Trump's gag rule in October, after clearing the necessary administrative hurdles.
The Montana bill, authored by Republican Amy Regier of Kalispell, went into effect this month and would apply "to Title X grant funds received after March 31, 2022."
Except it won't. Because the state's Department of Public Health and Human Services (DPHHS) is no longer in charge of distributing federal Title X funds, which go to reproductive health care. The state's DPHHS lost out to Bridgercare, which is not a historical drama about Regency Era health care, but rather a nonprofit reproductive and sexual health care clinic. Under that new Montana law, Bridgercare would likely have lost its funding because it does refer patients for abortions; now ... not so much!
"Bridgercare had serious concerns about the impact of new state restrictions on Title X funding and services. These concerns spurred us to develop an alternative to the Title X program that would exclude Bridgercare and other providers," Bridgercare's executive director Stephanie McDowell said in a press conference Wednesday.
Title X funds in a majority of states are actually distributed by non-profits rather than the state's Department of Health. Any public or private non-profit entity that wishes to be in charge of distribution must submit an application to be reviewed by the US Department of Health and Human Services.
"A competitive funding announcement was published at Grants.gov announcing the competition. Eligible applicants were reviewed by a panel of independent reviewers and evaluated based on criteria in the Title X regulations," a US Department of Health and Human Services spokesman told the Helena Independent Record.
When asked why she thought Bridgercare won the grant over the state, McDowell suggested that it could have been that, with the new law in effect, five of the largest cities in Montana would have been without Title X services.
“With the state application, they did not include those five large population areas. So I would anticipate that that would not do well in their mapping of service delivery,” McDowell explained, according to Montana Public Radio.
That does sound like it was probably it.
The state health department indicated in an email to the Helena Independent Record that they were less than thrilled with the decision and somewhat confused about what Title X is for.
"DPHHS is disappointed with the Biden administration's refusal to renew funding for this longstanding, successful state program," a spokesperson said.
"We recognize, however, that recent pro-abortion federal rule changes have distorted Title X and conflict with Montana law, as well as the Gianforte administration's priority of expanding primary care. The department will provide a transition and continuity for Title X-funded clinics and their clients."
The department said it was unable to answer further questions Wednesday "due to the recent nature of this news."
Since the very beginning, the whole purpose of Title X has been to fund comprehensive family planning and reproductive care. It's really hard to see how changing the federal rule back to what it was before two years ago would be "distorting it." Though it's equally hard to see how the state of Montana intended to distribute funds towards "natural family planning," as the rhythm method is as free as it is ineffective.
Given that there are other states that have passed similar bills, this could serve as a blueprint for ensuring that people in all states retain access to the reproductive health care to which they are entitled.
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Robyn Pennacchia is a brilliant, fabulously talented and visually stunning angel of a human being, who shrugged off what she is pretty sure would have been a Tony Award-winning career in musical theater in order to write about stuff on the internet. Follow her on Twitter at @RobynElyse