Featured Image
 Photo by Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images

(LifeSiteNews) — The Biden administration is denying federal Title X “family planning” funds from Oklahoma in what lawmakers are calling a flagrant attempt at discrimination over the state’s pro-life stance.

On May 25, the Oklahoma State Department of Health (OSDH) announced that the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services (HHS) deemed the state’s Title X program “out of compliance” due to “technical inconsistencies with HHS rules,” although “ongoing conversations” with federal health officials were continuing. The move suspended $4.5 million in federal dollars that the state was getting.

“As conversations continue, the OSDH understands it may have to modify the purchasing and distributing of medications purchased through Title X,” OSDH said. “However, the OSDH is not aware, at this time, of any requirement to return any previously purchased medications. A robust number of critical services such as cancer screenings, pregnancy prevention, STI diagnostics and treatment, breast exams, and depression screenings and referrals, among a multitude of other services, will continue for Oklahomans who need them.”

Voices such as Catholic Vote and the Catholic World Report suspect the real reason is retaliation for Oklahoma’s pro-life policies, noting that the Biden HHS has a history of adverse actions against pro-life states and that President Joe Biden has pledged to advance abortion using every means at his disposal to counteract last year’s overturn of Roe v. Wade.

On June 1, U.S. Sen. James Lankford (R-OK) led Oklahoma’s congressional delegation in a joint letter to HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra “demand[ing] the immediate reinstallation of the award” and arguing that the suspension “due to HHS’ novel interpretation of federal law regarding OSDH’s obligations under state law will substantially harm our constituency.” The letter states outright that HHS is penalizing OSDH “for refusing to refer for abortions.”

“Section 1008 of the Public Health Services Act, which authorizes Title X grant funding, explicitly prohibits funds from being ‘used in programs where abortion is a method of family planning,’” the letter explains. “The same sentiment is reiterated each year as a condition of Title X appropriations, which states that Title X funds ‘shall not be expended for abortions.’ 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. 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.”

“It is troubling that access to necessary Title X services for Oklahomans has now been caught in the crossfire of HHS’ continued work to promote abortion while neglecting conscience protections,” the lawmakers continue. “OSDH serves 30,000 Oklahomans in need of these free or low-cost services in accordance with federal and state law, in part through the Title X grant awarded to OSDH in March 2022. Yet, OSDH was wrongly determined by OPA [HHS’s Office of Population Affairs] to be out of compliance with the Administration’s regulations under Title X that illegally promote abortion as a method of family planning because OSDH cannot counsel or refer for abortion under state law.”

Biden has called on Congress to codify a “right” to abortion in federal law, which would not only restore but expand the Roe status quo by making it illegal for states to pass virtually any pro-life laws. His health chief Becerra has discussed a “national imperative” to promote abortion “access” through federal regulations, such as the administration’s support for distributing abortion pills by mail in violation of federal law.