Budget advocates slam funding for crisis pregnancy centers

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As Texas’ Heartbeat Bill paves the way for state legislatures to challenge abortion rights, advocates in North Carolina fear the Tar Heel state is next.

By Élisabeth Thompson

Texas ”almost total ban on abortion sent shockwaves across the country after the Supreme Court rejected emergency demands to block the law. Texas implementation ‘ SB 8 questions whether access to legal abortion decided in Roe v. Wade would be put to the test in other state legislatures.

In North Carolina, advocates say legislatures aren’t just taking action against abortion through “heartbeat” bills like the one in Texas. North Carolina is one of the 14 states which sends taxpayer money to “pregnancy crisis centers”, establishments that offer pregnancy tests and ultrasounds, but also seek to deter pregnant women from having an abortion.

This year’s North Carolina House budget includes approximately $ 9 million in funding for crisis pregnancy centers, compared to the Senate budget which allocates approximately $ 3 million.

Advocates, providers and some Democratic politicians have criticized the allocation of funds to further erode reproductive health care, while Republicans and anti-abortion advocates argue the funds bolster community programs that help pregnant women.

Medical providers?

Most emergency pregnancy centers are religiously affiliated, and some studies have shown that they give inaccurate medical information regarding the risks of abortion.

“Pregnancy crisis centers exist for one purpose: to prevent a person from obtaining a safe and legal abortion,” said Susanna Birdsong, director of public affairs for Planned Parenthood in North Carolina. in an August press release. “They intentionally spreading disinformation and outright lies confuse and manipulate people facing an unwanted pregnancy. They are generally unregulated and unlicensed and target low-income people. “

The organizations themselves argue that they give a pregnant person access to information and resources to make the choice whether or not to continue with the pregnancy, with the aim of preventing that person from having an abortion.

immoral. “

“They want to be medical centers that offer free health care and all the support,” said Bryant. She noted that CPCs cannot be legally bound by the provisions of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) and that they are mostly made up of volunteers who are not health professionals. .

“They are not regulated like regular health centers, and they are protected by the First Amendment to be able to speak what they believe,” Bryant said in an interview. “They can go both ways. “

While many allocations for emergency pregnancy centers are direct grants that do not specify what exactly the money will be used for, some funds allocated in the House budget for emergency pregnancy centers specify that they have to buy ultrasound equipment, like the $ 400,000 in credits that would go to the Cabarrus Women’s Center and $ 255,000 to the Salem Pregnancy Support Center, Inc., also known as the Salem Pregnancy Care Center, for renovations and the equipment.

The largest budget allocation for a crisis pregnancy center found in the House budget is a provision for a total of $ 6.4 million in funds to Texas-based Human Coalition for expansion to l ‘state-wide Continuum of Care Pilot Program, which is designed in part to “support childbirth as an alternative to abortion,” according to the budget. The Senate budget allocated $ 2.4 million to the same program.

The News & Observer previously reported that the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services could not recommend allocating more money to Human Coalition in 2019 because the group did not provide the information necessary to determine the effectiveness of the extension of the model he used in a Raleigh clinic.

Funds allocated in the budget will be spent on using registered nurses to assess the needs of pregnant patients and on “providing medically accurate and pregnancy-related medical information to program participants,” under both budgets.

The program will also direct patients to “appropriate local resources, including state and federal programs and local charities” and help patients apply for these programs.

“These funds are to be used only for non-religious and non-sectarian purposes,” say the two budgets of funds allocated to Human Coalition.

In response to State Representative Julie von Haefen (D-Apex) calling the centers “bogus health facilities” in a tweet, Senator Joyce Krawiec (R-Kernersville), who chairs the Senate health care committee, told him said to watch again.

“No money goes to bogus health clinics like Planned Parenthood,” Krawiec tweeted.

North Carolina Health News contacted Krawiec, as well as the Chairs of the House Committee for Health and Human Services Appropriations and House Speaker Tim Moore for further multi-day comments, but did not receive a response from their leaves at the time of publication.

North Carolina was also one of 10 states that used money from the Federal Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program, known colloquially as welfare, to fund crisis pregnancy centers. , The Guardian first reported based on research conducted by the responsibility group Futures actions.

Access to reproductive health care

North Carolina has “severely restricted access to abortionAccording to NARAL Pro-Choice North Carolina, and abortions are only available in a handle towns. While there is 15 abortion clinics in the state, there are 83 crisis pregnancy centers, according to the online site Map of the pregnancy crisis center.

Von Haefen, who has lobbied to reduce public funds allocated to these centers, said the state could better spend the money it puts there, in an interview with North Carolina Health News.

“These unwanted pregnancies result in billions of dollars in health care costs,” said Von Haefen. “By preventing unwanted pregnancies, we can actually save money and health care. If we really want to look at health spending, the best way to do it is to prevent pregnancy upstream rather than treating it on the other side. “

While there are many pregnant people who are not considering abortion and who could receive help from an emergency pregnancy center, Bryant said they “should not be privileged over d ‘other providers who actually provide comprehensive health care, such as Planned Parenthood and other providers.

As budget deliberations continue, nothing is quite set in stone. Moore and Pro Tempore Senate Speaker Phil Berger continue to negotiate on a compromise budget that they hope to present to Governor Roy Cooper in the fall.

The state limits the funds that can go to abortion providers, such as Planned Parenthood, in the House and Senate budgets. A harmless budget provision, which first appeared in the 2015-2016 budget and is included in this year’s House budget proposal, prevents any provider who performs abortions from receiving contracts for health education. health, teenage pregnancy prevention services and Medicaid reimbursement.

In the past, Governor Roy Cooper has vetoed several anti-abortion bills. More recently, he vetoed a bill that would prohibit providers from performing abortions because of a diagnosis of Down’s syndrome. The inclusion of funding for crisis pregnancy centers in the state budget is probably the only way to get this funding enacted.

Even though North Carolina did not pass the Texas “heartbeat” law, Von Haefen said she feared “a continued degradation of our reproductive rights.”

“Abortion is still legal in North Carolina, but the point is, it is extremely difficult to access,” said Von Haefen.

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