At least 18 states are funding crisis centers that aim to dissuade pregnant women from getting abortions, and some of them are using federal grant money intended to help poor families to do so, according to a report by CNN Tuesday.
Some health care advocates say that the public funds are being misused, since the crisis centers clearly have a political mission but do not perform basic services such as breast and cervical cancer screenings, even as they provide highly controversial and sometimes deceptive advice.
“Pregnancy center leaders and their state government allies say the organizations deserve taxpayer funds because they provide pregnant women with resources like free diapers and ultrasounds,” CNN’s Casey Tolan, Majlie de Puy Kamp and Isabelle Chapman write. “But some of the centers also lie to women about the safety and potential risks of abortion, according to multiple studies, abortion rights activists, and women who have been to the centers.”
CNN found that eight states – Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana, Texas, Arkansas, Louisiana, North Carolina and Missouri – are using money provided through the Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) program to at least partially fund pregnancy crisis centers. TANF provides federal funding for welfare assistance to the states through block grants, which give states considerable leeway in how to use the money. According to an analysis by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, states have long used TANF funds for a variety of needs far removed from assistance to the poor, and the program “provides a cautionary tale about the dangers of block-granting core safety-net programs and providing extensive flexibility to states on using the funds.”
The questionable use of TANF funds for anti-abortion advocacy is part of a larger trend, experts say, which has resulted in less assistance flowing to the poor. “While about 68% of families with children in poverty received cash assistance through TANF in 1996, when the program was created, that percentage declined to just 21% by 2020,” CNN says. “The percentage was even lower in some of the GOP-dominated states that use TANF funding to support crisis pregnancy centers, such as Texas and Louisiana.”