The Trump administration took an important step on Friday in its push to restrict access to abortion and contraception, announcing that it would give as much as $5.1 million in family planning funds to a nonprofit organization funded by allies of the Catholic Church.
The grant from the Department of Health and Human Services went to the Obria Group, a Southern California-based nonprofit that describes itself as being “led by God” and that aims to siphon patients — and money — away from Planned Parenthood.
The grant to Obria, which includes $1.7 million in the first year and the prospect of that amount in each of the next two years, represents a fraction of the total amount of family planning money awarded by the department on Friday. But both supporters and opponents of abortion rights cast it as a potentially significant move to try to defund medical clinics that provide abortions, such as those affiliated with Planned Parenthood.
The funding comes from Title X, which subsidizes birth control, cancer screenings and other medical care for four million low-income patients. While Title X funds do not pay for abortion services as a method of family planning, affiliates of Planned Parenthood, which receive a significant portion of the program’s funds, perform abortions using other funds.
The Obria group, which is at the fore of the faith-based push for Title X funding, was created in the 1990s as Birth Choice Pregnancy Centers, a volunteer-run nonprofit group that until recent years ran just a few crisis pregnancy centers in Southern California.
Obria gradually added doctors, nurses and medical services, and its locations got licensed as medical clinics, allowing them to collect payments from Medicaid and private insurance companies and to qualify for some government grants. The group started expanding beyond California by recruiting crisis pregnancy centers as partners in a fledgling nationwide network.
The two nonprofit groups that make up Obria — Obria Medical Clinics and Obria Group — had relatively modest fund-raising until recently, bringing in more than $25 million over the last two decades, according to public tax filings. Those filings mostly do not identify the groups’ donors, which are not required to be publicly disclosed under the tax code.
But a pair of tax filings identified by the Campaign for Accountability include donor information, perhaps accidentally. The filings show millions of dollars of support from groups associated with the Catholic Church, which opposes abortion and many forms of contraception.
The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, which comprises the country’s Catholic leadership, donated $2.5 million, according to the filings and the conference. And the Roman Catholic Bishop of Orange, which is affiliated with the Catholic diocese in California’s Orange County, donated another $560,000. A spokeswoman said the money came from the sale of roses on Mother’s Day.
Other donors include wealthy Southern California social conservatives, such as the real estate investor Charles J. Schreiber Jr., who for a time was the chairman of the board of Obria. He and his wife have contributed more than $1.1 million to the group.
Full story at The New York Times.