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Trump’s abortion defunding effort ends tax-funded pro-abortion program in Mississippi

Mississippi Center for Public Policy
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October 23, 2019 (Mississippi Center for Public Policy) — The Mississippi Department of Health worked with a pro-abortion group to distribute literature and helped the non-profit perform a voluntary study on pregnant women at 14 county health clinics around the state.

In an August 9 letter requested by state Sen. Angela Hill (R-Picayune) to the legislature's watchdog, known as the Joint Legislative Committee on Performance Evaluation and Expenditure Review or PEER Committee, the Mississippi Department of Health detailed its relationship with the non-profit Provide, a pro-abortion group.

According to Guidestar, a non-partisan charity monitoring group, Provide's mission is ensuring access to "safe" abortion for all women in the United States.  

Provide was involved to assist the MDH with compliance with the requirements of a $286 million federal family planning program called Title X. In June 2017, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services conducted a site visit and found the state not in compliance with requirements for options counseling, which included abortion.

According to the letter, Provide gave training to MDH employees in late 2017 and early 2018 to facilitate implementation of a corrective action plan. There were no contracts between state officials and Provide, according to an examination of the state contract database.

In addition to training, Provide was approved by the Institutional Review Board to issue several iPads loaded with a voluntary client survey to several county health clinics statewide. The survey was intended to gather data on services received, quality of option counseling (which included abortion) and demographics. 

In an August 9 letter to the PEER Committee, MDH claimed that no publication or information from Provide was used to counsel patients. 

That response contradicts one email from MDH.

In one email sent on April 25, State Health Officer Dr. Thomas Dobbs said that he had ordered the Provide educational materials from county health clinics removed months ago. He also said several complaints had been received about some clinics still having the material on hand. He ordered them to have the materials removed by May 1.

According to its 2018 IRS Form 990 tax form, Provide is a Cambridge, Massachusetts-based 501(c)(3) group that "focuses on making sustainable improvements to abortion access where it is needed most in rural communities in the South and Midwest."

The group said in the 990 that it held training sessions at 630 health and social service sites in states where "women seeking abortion face particularly high barriers to accessing care." The organization also said that its goal was to increase "trainees' intention to provide referral for abortion by 69 percent."

The states listed, in addition to Mississippi, included Alabama, Colorado, Florida, Illinois, Kentucky, Louisiana, North Carolina, Nebraska, New York, Ohio, Oklahoma, and Tennessee. 

Provide's involvement with the MDH was ended because of a rule change in the Title X program by the Trump administration. The new rule prohibited grant money going to programs where abortions are performed.

On June 20, the 9th Circuit of the U.S. Court of Appeals granted the Department of Health and Human Services' request for a stay on several injunctions issued by district courts in three states that temporarily halted the Trump administration's new rule. MDH stopped the study the same day. 

The entire 9th Circuit is taking up the case and oral arguments were held on September 23, with a decision likely forthcoming.

MDH/Provide timeline

  • June 2017 — After a site visit by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the state is found not to be in compliance with Title X regulations regarding option counseling (including abortions).
  • Last quarter of 2017 and first quarter of 2018 — Pro-abortion group Provide helps train state officials and county health department workers in options counseling.
  • April 19, 2018 — Study conducted by Provide on options counseling administered voluntarily to pregnant women using services at several county health clinics begins.
  • February 2019 — The Trump administration issues a new Title X rule that prohibits the provision of grant money to abortion providers.
  • April 25, 2019 — Dr. Dobbs instructs MDH employees to not hand out Provide educational materials since they aren't state-approved.
  • June 20, 2019 — The state ends the Provide study after a decision by the 9thCircuit of the U.S. Court of Appeals keeps the Trump Title X rules in effect. 

Published with permission from the Mississippi Center for Public Policy.

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