By Jessica Morandi
Today we have a special investigative report from Abortion Access Front intern Jessica Morandi about what kind of groups are seeking Title X funding now. Hint: places that DEFINITELY cannot fill Planned Parenthood’s shoes!
There’s a new fake clinic in town, and their first move — before acquiring a website or medical providers — was to sue the government. Vita Nuova incorporated on July 2 and filed a lawsuit against the Department of Health and Human Services on July 3, alleging that “Christian, pro-life” organizations are being unfairly barred from receiving Title X funding (which allows more than four million low-income people to access affordable birth control and reproductive healthcare) because of a federal rule that all providers must recognize gay marriage, which Vita Nuova evidently will not. The organization doesn’t appear to exist beyond its paper filing, but its founder has plenty of experience with running (failed) fake clinics.
Vita Nuova is essentially a rebranding of notorious fake clinic chain The Heidi Group, which received a shockingly large amount of state funding from Texas despite not providing contraception or other basic services. The three employees listed on Vita Nuova’s business filing are Carol Everett (The Heidi Group’s founder and president, and a real piece of work — more on her later), Everett’s granddaughter, and a current Heidi Group employee; as an anonymous ex-Heidi employee put it, “It’s the same old pig, just a different shade of lipstick.”
As we saw this week, Planned Parenthood is choosing NOT to take Title X money since the new restrictions on literally even TALKING about abortion with patients is a blatant hazard to public health. So, now’s a great time to learn about the fake clinics that ARE getting (or attempting to get) this year’s Title X funding — run by people with no such moral qualms.
Time for a history lesson on The Heidi Group.
Its founder, Carol Everett, is an anti-abortion zealot who has no qualms about making up blatant lies. She’s claimed that abortions are frequently performed on “women who were not pregnant”; that abortion is “terribly painful” (lol but sure, “giving birth” is just a walk in the park); and that if fetal remains aren’t cremated or buried (which Texas itself ruled an undue burden), HIV and other STIs could be transmitted “into our water supply.” Other wild claims that she’s made related to reproductive healthcare include that a man having sex with multiple consenting partners “is almost like rape,” that Planned Parenthood has “a website that actually encourages sex with animals,” and that sex ed teaches fourth graders to masturbate together “in groups of four or five of the same sex” (and that’s “why the homosexual lifestyle is exploding”).
She’s been saying this stuff for decades, publicly and loudly — all completely unsubstantiated lies regarding healthcare. Yet none of this was considered a red flag when the Texas Health and Human Services Commission (HHSC) decided to award the organization that she founded approximately $6.75 million of government funding for 2017 under two new programs designed to replace Planned Parenthood in the state: Healthy Texas Women and the Family Planning Program. Despite having no previous family planning experience, Everett pitched her organization as an alternative to Planned Parenthood in scale. In an unprecedented move, The Heidi Group applied not as a direct healthcare provider but as an umbrella organization that would dole out its funding to clinics that align with its anti-abortion mission. So basically, they wanted to take the government’s money without actually doing anything and reward OTHER fake clinics who also don’t provide care! Like a Russian doll of hate!
Unsurprisingly, The Heidi Group failed on an epic scale. In 2017, it served less than 5% of the 70,000 patients that Everett had pledged to cover, yet it spent nearly $2 million of government money doing so (before HHSC cut back its contract by over $4 million mid-year, making Heidi the only contractor in either Texas program to have funding revoked in 2017). And guess what?? The Heidi Group was approved for the same amount of funding for 2018 — and again, it substantially under-delivered. It used approximately $3.2 million to serve less than 7,000 patients across both programs; in light of this, HHSC once again revoked millions of dollars from Heidi’s funding mid-year. Despite CLEAR EVIDENCE of The Heidi Group’s inability to deliver, HHSC renewed Everett’s contracts YET AGAIN for 2019 with the unrealistic expectation that the group would serve 40,000 patients during the year — a full 12 times more than it managed in 2017.
But before The Heidi Group could squander that funding too, HHSC finally severed their contracts in December 2018, rescinding the 2019 funding that the government had allocated to them just a couple months before. Funnily enough, this surprise announcement came just 2 weeks after the Texas Observer first reported the dismal statistics of The Heidi Group’s first year of operation. Once in the public eye, the state abruptly changed its approach and demanded that The Heidi Group repay tens of thousands of dollars. HHSC is also currently pursuing an investigation regarding an additional $1.1 million of questioned expenses.
But Everett was not finished; instead, she applied for Title X federal family planning money in January 2019, essentially attempting to go over Texas’ head to a larger funding source after being deemed unsuccessful by the state. Her application was rightly denied — by this point, The Heidi Group had been publicly accused by former employees and a national watchdog group of lying and inflating patient counts on the federal grant application.
However, the lesson that Everett took from this rejection was that “Christian, pro-life” organizations are under attack in America (a wildly inaccurate claim under an administration that is openly catering to them), and thus, Vita Nuova was founded to pursue the same funding for the same purpose without The Heidi Group’s baggage.
This conflict is not limited to one organization: HHSC’s recent changes to its family planning program have been called “a case study and cautionary tale” of what happens when Planned Parenthood is denied federal funding because of its ties to abortion, and Texas patients are suffering because of it. Here are some stunning statistics about the failed implementation of the state’s new programs:
Almost half of the approximately 5,400 providers in Healthy Texas Women didn’t see a single patient in 2017.
Of the 2,900 providers that did see patients, more than 700 saw just a single person.
Only about 1,500 providers saw more than five patients.
And most importantly, less than a quarter of the nearly two million Texas women who need publicly funded contraception and preventive care are getting it.
This is the bleak future of reproductive healthcare facing America right now. Instead of family planning money going to clinics that support a range of family planning methods (IDK like some kind of place that could help you PLAN your PARENTHOOD), it’s being showered on groups that flat-out lie about providing contraception (we see you, Obria). Vita Nuova — as uniquely awful as its founder’s history may seem — is just one example of all the fake clinics that are getting more funding and less oversight than ever. And with this administration’s new restrictions forcing Planned Parenthood to reject Title X funding, these companies are going to be given more and more free rein to fuck up reproductive healthcare.