President Biden’s reversal of Trump-era pro-life policies on abortion set off a pointed exchange Wednesday between White House press secretary Jen Psaki and a Catholic reporter, who asked her a series of questions that are rarely raised during press briefings.
At issue was a decision by the Biden administration to overturn a Trump policy that prohibited Title X money from going to family-planning clinics that “perform, promote, refer for, or support abortion as a method of family planning.” It also required recipients to financially and physically separate their abortion services from their non-abortion services.
Title X is a federal family planning program for low-income individuals.
Planned Parenthood, which receives an estimated $60 million in Title X money each year, chose to drop out of the program.
The decision by Biden will restore the funding.
Owen Jensen, a reporter for EWTN, a Catholic network, asked Psaki, “Why does the Biden administration insist that pro-life Americans pay for abortions and violate their conscience?”
Psaki insisted Jensen was wrong.
“Well, first, that’s not an accurate depiction of what happened,” she said, “and I know we want to be accurate around here. ‘None of the funds appropriated under this title shall be used in programs where abortion is a method of family planning’ – that is written into the Public Health Service Act, and it specifically states that.”
Jensen responded, “But we know there’s indirect subsidies, money that’s fungible, that can’t be traced. We know that. Come on.”
“That is not how it works. That is the law,” Psaki said. “So I’m stating what the law is and how it is implemented legally by these organizations.”
Psaki then defended Biden’s decision to fund family-planned clinics that refer for and perform abortions.
“The reason why the president took these steps is because he believes that advancing equity for all – including people of color and others who have been historically underserved, marginalized and adversely affected by persistent poverty and inequality – can be helped by these actions,” she said. “And by focusing on advancing equity in the Title X program, we can create opportunities for the improvement of communities that have been historically underserved, which benefits everyone. That’s how these fundings are used in communities.”
To that, Jensen retorted, “You talk about equity. … How is it fighting systemic racism when abortion, we well know, disproportionately affects minority children?”
Psaki responded, “Again, funding cannot be used from this for abortion, but access to healthcare – access to healthcare in communities – in communities that have been marginalized, underserved, adversely affected by persistent poverty is always going to be something the president fights for.”
Psaki then moved on to the next question.
Photo courtesy: ©Getty Images/Drew Angerer/Staff
Michael Foust has covered the intersection of faith and news for 20 years. His stories have appeared in Baptist Press, Christianity Today, The Christian Post, the Leaf-Chronicle, the Toronto Star and the Knoxville News-Sentinel.