December 6, 2023
On Friday, December 1, 2023, EPPC scholars Rachel N. Morrison, Eric Kniffin, and Patrick T. Brown submitted a public comment on Department of Health and Human Services’ (HHS) proposed rule amending program regulations for the Strengthening Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program.
The proposed rule sets out seven proposals. The EPPC’s scholars’ comment focused on the second proposal regarding regulations that “clarify when an expenditure is ‘reasonably calculated to accomplish a TANF purpose.’”
Within the proposal, HHS singles out pro-life pregnancy centers as an example of programs that likely do not meet the reasonable person standard for funding that is reasonably calculated to accomplish a TANF purpose.
The scholars argued:
HHS’s discussion betrays HHS’s ignorance about the full range of services that pregnancy centers provide. Contrary to HHS’s mischaracterization, pregnancy centers’ services satisfy all four TANF purposes. In line with other politically-motivated attacks on pregnancy centers. HHS’s unwarranted targeting of pregnancy centers in the proposed rule functions to encourage states to stop providing pregnancy centers TANF funding and discourage states from providing TANF funding to pregnancy centers in the future. HHS’s proposal harms pregnancy centers and the women and families they serve.
The scholars also pushed back on HHS’s proposal to add subsection (c) that would require states to show that TANF funding is “reasonably calculated” to accomplish a TANF purpose according to a reasonable person standard if does not appear so to HHS. They explained, “HHS fails to demonstrate a need for proposed subsection (c) as it already has successful enforcement of funding misuse.” The scholars also noted that HHS’s ignorance about pregnancy centers indicates that it is not well positioned to know what a “reasonable person” thinks about how these centers support and encourage healthy American families.
The scholars urged HHS to drop its discussion targeting pro-life pregnancy centers and abandon its proposed subsection (c).
Members of Congress, religious, prolife, family, legal, and policy organizations also submitted public comments on HHS’ proposal.
About the EPPC comment signers:
Rachel N. Morrison, J.D., is an EPPC Fellow, director of EPPC’s HHS Accountability Project, and former attorney at the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
Eric Kniffin, J.D., is an EPPC Fellow, member of the HHS Accountability Project, and a former attorney in the U.S. Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division.
Patrick T. Brown is a fellow in EPPC’s Life and Family Initiative and a former manager of strategic initiatives at Catholic Charities USA.
Others submitting comments on the proposed rule include:
- 11 Senators and 19 Members of Congress led by Senator Cindy Hyde-Smith and Representative Christopher Smith
- Advancing American Freedom
- Family Research Council
- National Institute of Family and Life Advocates
- Susan B. Anthony Pro-Life America
- U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Ways and Means Chairman Jason Smith and Work and Welfare Subcommittee Chairman Darin LaHood