Officials from a pro-abortion group working with the Mississippi state Department of Health offered to give county health clinics a free iPad for encouraging participation by pregnant women in a study, who also received a participation gift.
Provide Inc. is a Cambridge, Massachusetts-based pro-abortion group that was brought in by former State Health Officer Dr. Mary Currier in June 2017 to get the state in compliance with mandates regarding Title X, a federal family planning program that provided the state with more than $10 million over the past two years.
These Title X mandates included options counseling, which included abortion, for pregnant women using services at county clinics.
The Provide survey was intended to gather data for MDH and the pro-abortion group on services received, quality of option counseling (which included abortion) and demographics. The survey began on April 19, 2018 and was closed on June 20 after a federal court decision.
The study was conducted on iPads exclusively loaded with the survey materials and provided to 14 clinics statewide. The goal was for Provide and MDH to survey 400 pregnant women. The clinics would get to permanently keep their iPad if they got an 85 percent completion rate.
According to the last data from the emails obtained by the Mississippi Center for Public Policy, 345 women completed the survey.
The pregnant women received a $15 gift card to Target for participating in the survey on the iPad. If they agreed to do an interview with a Provide staffer two weeks later, they received a $40 gift card.
According to an email, Provide intended to use the data to further its training program, while the MDH’s goal was to determine if Provide training helped with options counseling for pregnant women. The survey was aimed at adult, English-speaking pregnant women, with non-English speakers and minors excluded.
On April 25, State Health Officer Dr. Thomas Dobbs told his employees to “remove all educational material samples left by the group Provide.” He later said that some of the materials were seen at a local county health department and that they weren’t approved for use at MDH.
He gave instructions that all Provide materials were to be removed by May 1 and that any found were to be reported.
One of his subordinates told him and other officials that Provide held training in Jackson and that some of those employees at the training were provided some materials on site as resources.
On May 6, a 16-year-old pregnant girl completed the survey in Rankin County and received a gift card. Provide removed her information from the survey and the clinic received additional training in eligibility screening.
State officials, most notably Marilyn Johnson, who is the MDH’s director of Family Planning and Title V Maternal Child Health, were in constant contact with Provide employees during the study period providing updates on study participant numbers.
There are several reminders to the participating clinics that Provide materials were not approved by the MDH. Other emails requested the charging of iPads. One clinic director was asked if she was refusing to participate in survey and Provide employees wondered if someone else at the clinic could do it instead.
According to its 2018 IRS Form 990 tax form, Provide “focuses on making sustainable improvements to abortion access where it is needed most in rural communities in the South and Midwest.”
The group said in the 990 that it held training sessions at 630 health and social service sites in states where “women seeking abortion face particularly high barriers to accessing care.” The organization also said that its goal was to increase “trainees’ intention to provide referral for abortion by 69 percent.”
The states listed, in addition to Mississippi, included Alabama, Colorado, Florida, Illinois, Kentucky, Louisiana, North Carolina, Nebraska, New York, Ohio, Oklahoma and Tennessee.
The 9th Circuit of the U.S. Court of Appeals issued a stay on the injunctions on the Trump administration rule, allowing it to go into effect, while it considers the merits of the legal challenges. Oral arguments in the case were held on September 23.
Planned Parenthood has pulled out of the Title X program as a result of the new rule.