June 1, 2018; Color Lines
On May 18th, the Trump administration’s Department of Health and Human Services released a new proposal for Title X funding, further restricting funding for abortion providers. Days later, on May 29th, President Donald Trump appointed Diane Foley as the deputy secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services. Foley now oversees the Office of Population Affairs and Title X, the sole federal program that funds family planning and preventive services.
A cornerstone of Title X is funding family planning methods including natural family planning, infertility services, contraceptive methods, cancer screenings, and sexual health education. Title X also funds research opportunities for contraception development and issues on family planning education, including informational material distribution.
Because of the essential funding provided by Title X, it is worrisome that Diane Foley has been appointed. Foley is the former president and CEO of Life Network, an organization that supports “life-affirming alternatives to abortion” and supports sex education that is based on abstinence-only.
Foley’s former organization runs two crisis pregnancy centers (CPCs). According to NARAL Pro-Choice America, CPCs “try to trick women into entering…by masquerading as full-service women’s health clinics.” CPCs receive funding from the federal level, through abstinence only education funding, and from state legislatures through direct funding or tax benefits. Some states go even further, like South Dakota, whose governor in 2011, Dennis Daugaard, signed into law a mandate that women who seek abortion first attend an in-person lecture at a CPC. CPCs often present inaccurate medical information, which Drs. Amy Bryant and Jonas Swartz say, “should be regarded as an ethical violation that undermines women’s health.”
Abstinence-only sex education is correlated with increased rates of teenage pregnancy and birth rates. Her appointment only further supports the Trump administration’s efforts to restrict funding for family planning organizations that provide abortion services, and to revert to sex education models that are not evidence-based. The federal government began funding these sex education programs in 1981, to promote “chastity.” And while these programs received funding cuts under the Clinton administration, the Bush administration doubled down on abstinence-only funding, further restricting the types of education available, and requiring that programs “do not promote contraception and/or condom use.” The Obama administration turned the tides again, moving money from abstinence-only funding to more comprehensive sex education and toward a stronger evidence based for sex education under the Affordable Care Act.
The Trump Administration has made clear that their sexual health agenda will not prioritize abortion rights nor comprehensive sex education. This is evident by the new Title X proposal and the appointing of Diane Foley to the Department of Health and Human Services.
Chritra Panjabi, president and CEO of Sexuality Information and Education Council of the US commented on Foley’s appointment, saying: “Anyone who perpetuates falsehoods about the safety of abortion as a medical procedure, views a standard condom-and-banana classroom demonstration as ‘sexual harassment,’ and supports withholding information from young people has no business making decisions that affect sexual and reproductive health care for millions.”—Ember Urbach