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The Oklahoman: U.S. Rep. Cole wants funding cut off to health center group over abortion claims

April 26, 2016
News Stories

The Oklahoman - Chris Casteel

Rep. Tom Cole said Tuesday that federal grant money should be shut off to a national organization of community health centers for allowing members of an associated group to assist with abortions.

Cole, R-Moore, the chairman of the subcommittee that oversees spending for the Health and Human Services Department, said he was “outraged by the terrible misuse of taxpayer dollars under the direction of the National Association of Community Health Centers.”

The National Association of Community Health Centers has received about $30 million in federal grant money from AmeriCorps in the last five years to administer the community health corps program.

Between 2013 and 2015, the association “allowed a few AmeriCorps members to provide emotional support (doula care) to women during abortion procedures at three New York City clinics” operated by another grantee, according to the inspector general for the Corporation for National and Community Service, the federal parent of AmeriCorps.

The inspector general's report involves a complex web of federal grants and recipients — all of whom would be barred by law from using federal money for abortion — but puts the blame squarely on the National Association of Community Health Centers for not adhering strictly to the law, even after earlier violations.

The Corporation for National and Community Service took several steps after learning of the violations. It blocked the national group from taking advances on its grant, requiring all grant-related expenses to be submitted for reimbursement.
Cole wants the grant, which is set to expire in May, terminated immediately and not renewed until a wider investigation is performed.

“While participating in the Community HealthCorps program, it is absolutely unacceptable that AmeriCorps members were wrongfully instructed and encouraged to assist in abortion-related procedures and services at community health centers,” Cole said.

“Such activity is expressly prohibited by federal law. Abortion-related procedures should never be funded by taxpayers. Given these disturbing developments, I believe this grantee should be immediately terminated from the HealthCorps program.”

Action taken

The National Association of Community Health Centers issued a statement Tuesday saying it “moved immediately to cease the activity in question, and suspended the identified site's AmeriCorps members for a period until they and their site supervisors were retrained and revised member service contracts were reviewed and signed.

“All 38 sub-grantee program coordinators and HealthCorps grant staff at NACHC were also retrained. ... Health centers do not plan to, nor are they seeking to, become providers of abortion. We value the bipartisan support health centers have earned through successive administrations and are in favor of any measure to clarify that health centers are good stewards of federal investments.”

Online: The Oklahoman