A California chain of faith-based clinics is suing HHS, claiming it can’t administer more than $5 million in federal family planning funds because current program rules infringe on its First Amendment rights.
The complaint in U.S. District Court in Santa Ana, Calif., states the Obria Group has been put in an untenable situation because courts temporarily stayed new Trump administration rules for the Title X program that would have, among other things, barred providers in the program from offering or referring patients for abortions. Instead, Obria has to comply with existing standards that require recipients to offer contraception and counseling that includes discussing abortion.
Story Continued Below
“Obria and its clinics are now put to a Hobson’s choice,” the suit states. “They may either accept the money — which would mean accepting the abortion referral requirement to which they have deep religious objections — or they can decline to do so, meaning that the funds will be forfeited and Obria clinics will be unable to provide much-needed healthcare to needy women across California.”
The group, which has positioned itself as an alternative to Planned Parenthood, claims that status quo violates the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, despite the fact HHS told POLITICO it would not force Obria to go against its moral principles. The suit seeks an injunction barring the abortion referral requirement from being enforced,
The watchdog Campaign for Accountability, which is suing HHS over access to documents connected to the policy changes, says Obria should have never sought grant money under rules antithetical to its religious beliefs. “Obria is seeking an alternate route to hold onto Title X funds while refusing to comply with the terms of that funding,” Alice Huling, the group’s counsel, wrote in an email.
Obria did not immediately return a message seeking comment.