Are Crisis Pregnancy Centers Misusing Public Funds?

Crisis pregnancy centers, or CPCs, have grown both in number and clout over the last decade, as national organizations continue to invest in them as an alleged means of reducing abortions.

While some are still volunteer-run locations that offer pregnancy test and baby supplies, more often these centers are emerging as sophisticated partial medical centers. In fact, many provide ultrasounds and prenatal care, targeted online advertising and educational, medical and service referrals.

As these entities take on more roles, many CPCs are also reaping public funding from local and federal taxpayers. And frequently, those funds come with little oversight.

Unsurprisingly, this money may support the anti-abortion movement far more than any of the clients that CPCs claim to be helping.

Recent investigations in both Texas and Pennsylvania highlight anti-abortion groups that said they would accept funds to help lower income clients — including those facing unplanned pregnancies — access healthcare and other practical support.

In Texas, where family planning funds had been stripped from Planned Parenthood years earlier, Heidi Group received a $1.6 million contract from the state. The intent was to connect those without insurance coverage to providers who could give them access to birth control and other reproductive health services.

Now, a year later, there is little idea where that money has gone. The AP reported:

An Associated Press review found the nonprofit has done little of the outreach it promised, such as helping clinics promote their services on Facebook, or airing public service announcements. It hasn’t made good on plans to establish a 1-800 number to help women find providers or ensure that all clinics have updated websites. Neither the group nor state officials would say how many patients have been served so far by the private clinics.

Heidi Group executive Carol Everett, a former abortion provider turned anti-abortion activist, stated that the funding was delayed and claimed that some community clinics are “refusing” to work with Heidi Group, slowing the project down.

“[I]t’s not as easy as it looks because we are not Planned Parenthood. We are working with private physicians and providers,” Everett told the AP. She added that the clinics “…don’t have time to go out and do some of the things that we would really like to help them do. But we’re there if they want to. And we’re there when the need it. And we’re in their offices and we’re helping them.”

But Texas isn’t the only state that isn’t seeing results from the crisis pregnancy centers funded by taxpayers.

Real Alternatives, another anti-abortion group, received $30 million in state funds from Pennsylvania to help those who were unexpectedly pregnant continue to carry to term rather than seek out an abortion. When the group was audited, it offered no clarity as to the reason for a 3 percent “user fee” they charged subcontractors — a fee that resulted in almost one million in unaccounted-for money.

“What is it in that 3 percent fee that they so want to hide from the people of Pennsylvania?” Pennsylvania state auditor Eugene DePasguale asked. “Are they funneling campaign contributions? I mean what are they doing with that money?”

Whatever the answer, Real Alternatives had no interest in sharing. Instead, the group sued DePasquale to try to stop him from pursuing his investigation. But that only led the auditor to dig in further.

DePasquale explained:

The idea that any organization receiving public funds would hide behind the courts to keep taxpayers in the dark makes my blood boil. If this attempt to conceal information from the public persists, I will call upon the governor and the General Assembly to immediately terminate the contract with Real Alternatives. With the state facing a $3 billion deficit, any organization that refuses to be held accountable should not receive a single cent of taxpayer funding.

With congressional Republicans still determined to defund Planned Parenthood federally, more taxpayer funding will likely head to anti-abortion groups that act as alleged go-betweens for medical service contractors and those who are low-income or uninsured. Finding a way to ensure that these groups are held accountable for what they do with their funds must be a priority for every state in the country.