The Frontier is committed to chasing stories over the course of weeks or months, even after they’ve fallen out of public attention. For me, that’s meant diving deeper into what Oklahoma’s loss of federal family planning funding means for health outcomes.
This summer, I learned that the federal government terminated the state’s multi-million dollar grant for family planning services, including confidential and free or low-cost contraceptives and pregnancy counseling over Oklahoma officials’ unwillingness to provide information on abortion. Multiple outlets reported on the news initially, but before long, the conversation lulled.
I still had a lot of unanswered questions. What services would be affected? What would this mean in a state with the fourth-highest teen birth rate in the country, and already limited family planning services in rural areas? And how did negotiations between state and federal officials break down?
Months later, I learned federal officials would redirect the grant to a family planning organization in Missouri to fund a new network of clinics that wouldn’t include county health departments. The change was shocking to me, and I immediately wanted to know more.
I soon discovered that while county health clinics would be using state money to continue some family planning services, Oklahoma law prevented them from being able to offer services to minors without parental consent. I filed an open records request for emails that showed state officials refused to promote an abortion hotline or take other options that could have helped save the federal funding.
There’s still more reporting to do. Oklahoma Attorney General Gentner Drummond is suing the federal government over the loss of funding. Support from our readers has made my work possible.
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