Washington Examiner: Anti-abortion and anti-contraception healthcare provider eyes federal family planning funds

Stanton Healthcare, a women’s health organization that opposes contraception and presents itself as the anti-abortion alternative to Planned Parenthood, is weighing applying for federal family planning funds this year.

Brandi Swindell, 43, the founder and CEO of Stanton Healthcare, told the Washington Examiner that she has met two to three times with officials at the Department of Health and Human Services in the Trump administration and that her organization will not compromise its opposition to birth control to receive the grants.

“Stanton will not do anything that will undermine our beliefs, our policies, and the vision for who we are,” Swindell said.

The organization helps people avoid unintended pregnancies through natural methods, including teaching women how to track their ovulation to determine which days of the month they are unlikely to get pregnant. It currently doesn’t accept any government funds and also doesn’t charge patients for its services. Swindell said its mission was to “represent the millions of Americans and women that reject Planned Parenthood’s brand of abortion healthcare.”

“We believe women deserve the truth about how to maintain control over their bodies when it comes to their reproductive health, and it doesn’t have to include Big Pharma and synthetic hormones being put into their bodies … There is a growing trend of a hunger of women wanting other alternatives,” Swindell said.

The money in question comes from a $286 million-a-year program known as Title X that is used to pay for testing of sexually transmitted diseases, cancer screenings, and birth control for four million low-income adults.

Planned Parenthood stopped accepting as much as $60 million in Title X money last year after the Trump administration said that organizations who get the funds could not directly refer to abortions, leading critics to refer to the policy as a “gag rule.” Another part of the rule, set to take effect this year if it isn’t stopped in court, mandates that participants in the program do not provide abortions in the same buildings that are used to provide Title X services. Under federal law, the federal money cannot pay for most abortions, but anti-abortion advocates and the Trump administration say that funding shouldn’t be used to prop up abortion providers.

Stanton is similar to Obria, a California anti-abortion, Christian healthcare group which received $1.7 million in Title X grants last year after it agreed to contract with a health center that does provide birth control. But Stanton doesn’t want to agree to a similar arrangement if it decides to apply for the grant.

Swindell is optimistic there might be “creative solutions” that would still allow Stanton to get the grants without providing birth control but said it was too early to share what those might be. The organization is still discussing the possibilities and exploring whether it will apply, she said.

Stanton has positioned two of its clinics near Planned Parenthood facilities in Idaho. It has a third facility in the state as well as another in Southern California and is expanding into Detroit. Stanton provides well-woman exams, ultrasounds, STD testing, and a wellness center that offers aromatherapy and massage therapy. Swindell described her organization’s model as “holistic and green.”

Stanton also provides classes for couples who are becoming parents and provides a slew of other services aimed at women facing unintended pregnancies: baby and maternity clothes, cribs, and other supplies. Its staff also help women register for Medicaid, even though it doesn’t take funding from the program, which covers low-income people. The organization also opened a public policy center in Washington, D.C.

“Women deserve diversity in healthcare,” Swindell said. “They deserve choice and alternatives in healthcare. If every provider is forced to provide or promote birth control, that’s limiting what healthcare personnel are able to do.”

by Kimberly Leonard

 | January 15, 2020 12:00 AM