wealth distribution

Millions in tax dollars flow to anti-abortion centers in US

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Nashville, Tenn. – Anti-abortion centers across the country are receiving tens of millions of tax dollars to talk women out of ending their pregnancies, a nearly fivefold increase from a decade ago that resulted from an often-overlooked effort by mostly Republican-led states.

The nonprofits known as crisis pregnancy centers are typically religiously affiliated and counsel clients against having an abortion as part of their free but limited services. That practice and the fact that they generally are not licensed as medical facilities have raised questions about whether it’s appropriate to funnel so much tax money their way.

Nurse Cassie Owen demonstrates an ultrasound machine at the Portico Crisis Pregnancy Center Jan. 26, 2022, in Murfreesboro, Tenn. States that have passed ever-restrictive abortion laws also have been funneling millions of taxpayer dollars into privately operated clinics that steer women away from abortions but provide little if any health care services. (AP Photo/Mark Zaleski)

An Associated Press tally based on state budget figures reveals that nearly $89 million has been allocated to such centers across about a dozen states this fiscal year. A decade ago, the annual funding for the programs hovered around $17 million in about eight states.

Estimates of how many abortions have been prevented by such programs are unknown because many states only require reports of how many clients were served. Trying to pinpoint exactly how many pregnancy centers receive taxpayer dollars also is difficult because each state has a different system to distribute the money.

“It’s bad governing. We’re supposed to be monitoring our taxpayer money and we don’t know where the money is going,” said Julie von Haefen, a Democratic state representative in North Carolina, which has sent millions in public money to pregnancy centers. “These clinics don’t provide medical care. They act like they do, but they don’t.”

Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee talks with Portico Crisis Pregnancy Center staff members inside the Image Clear Ultrasound mobile unit Jan. 26, 2022, in Murfreesboro, Tenn.

What is clear is that taxpayer funding for the centers has spiked in recent years as more Republican-led states have passed legislation severely limiting access to abortion.

The centers have also been accused of providing misleading information about abortion and contraception – for example, suggesting that abortion leads to mental health problems or breast cancer.

Supporters hope to expand the number of centers if the U.S. Supreme Court overturns or significantly restricts abortion rights in a case to be decided later this year.

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