LINCOLN — State health officials have announced plans to award some Title X federal family planning dollars to Omaha clinics that offer little or no family planning services.

Most clinics on the “intent to award” list have received Title X funds previously. But the new list also includes Essential Pregnancy Services and Sancta Familia Medical Apostolate, both of Omaha.

The first is a crisis pregnancy center, which offers some pregnancy-related services aimed at discouraging women from seeking abortions. Its services do not include contraception.

Sancta Familia is a medical clinic that lists its mission as providing primary health care “in adherence to the moral and ethical teachings of The Roman Catholic Church,” which condemns the use of contraception.

The clinic trains patients to use natural family planning, which relies on changes during a woman’s menstrual cycle to determine when she may become pregnant.

Neither provide all of the services covered by Title X. The funds pay for family planning services including contraceptives, infertility services and natural family planning methods. They also pay for breast and cervical cancer screening, testing for sexually transmitted diseases and HIV, and related counseling and education for low-income women and men.

Nebraska gets about $1.7 million worth of federal Title X funds annually. The newly announced grants cover seven months, from Sept. 1 through March 31, which matches the current funding awarded by the federal government.

State Sen. Sara Howard of Omaha said she has concerns about including Essential Pregnancy Services and Sancta Familia as Title X providers, given their limited services. She said she wonders whether those clinics could provide “neutral, factual, nondirective information” about abortion, if sought by a patient.

“My main concern is if there would be some type of coercion of women who might not want to carry to term,” she said.

State lawmakers passed a new requirement this year that bars Title X funds from going to any organization that offers abortions, refers women for abortions or is affiliated with an entity that offers or refers for abortion.

Referrals include giving the names, addresses and contact information of abortion providers.

Gov. Pete Ricketts pushed for the new regulations, which prevent Planned Parenthood from qualifying for Title X funds. The agency, which offers abortions at its Omaha and Lincoln clinics, previously served half of all Title X patients in Douglas County and 75 percent of those in Lancaster County.

In seeking applicants for the new grants, the state said agencies receiving funding “must provide all family planning services listed in the ‘required services’ sections of the Title X guidelines, either on-site or by referral.” Title X does not include abortion as a family planning service.

Matt Litt, a spokesman for the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services, said the department’s focus is on ensuring a network of care for Nebraskans who qualify for Title X services. Clinics that do not provide a particular Title X service must refer patients elsewhere for that care, he said.

That’s the plan at Essential Pregnancy Services, according to Executive Director Brad Burks.

The clinic offers pregnancy testing, STD testing and treatment, and education about family planning. If patients want or need contraception, natural family planning, cancer screenings or infertility services, they would be given a list of other clinics, he said.

Teresa Kenney, a women’s health nurse practitioner at Sancta Familia, said the clinic provides a number of Title X services. She said options are available through other Title X clinics for patients wanting to use family planning methods other than natural family planning.

Kenney said Sancta Familia sought Title X funding because the clinic wants to improve the health and wellness of low-income women and men by making care more accessible. As for counseling about abortion, she said clinic professionals are “fully capable” of educating patients on the options available to them.

Burks at Essential Pregnancy Services said the clinic applied for Title X because most of its patients already are low-income and uninsured. He said the clinic’s services fit within those funded by Title X.

Also on the list of new grant recipients is North Omaha Area Health, a five-year-old clinic that currently provides STD testing and treatment, along with limited health services. Ira Combs, the founder and director, said Title X funding will let the clinic start offering family planning services in an area with few other options.

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Martha Stoddard keeps legislators honest from The World-Herald's Lincoln bureau, where she covers news from the State Capitol. Follow her on Twitter @StoddardOWH. Phone: 402-473-9583.

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