Republicans Resist Biden’s Move to Cut Federal Funding for Anti-Abortion Counseling Centers

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Congressional Republicans are making efforts to prevent the Biden administration from implementing a spending rule that they argue will result in the loss of significant funding for anti-abortion counseling centers, adding a new dimension to the ongoing debate surrounding abortion access.

The proposed rule aims to prevent states from allocating federal funds designated for assisting vulnerable individuals to certain organizations that provide counseling against abortions, commonly referred to as “crisis pregnancy centers.” Millions of dollars in federal funds are at stake for organizations that currently receive funding through the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program. This program, established in 1996, aims to provide cash assistance to impoverished children and prevent out-of-wedlock pregnancies.

The Health and Human Services agency stated in its rule proposal released late last year that programs which solely offer pregnancy counseling to women after they become pregnant may not meet the required standard.

Over 7,000 comments have been received regarding the proposed rule, which outlines various limitations on the utilization of TANF funds by states.

The proposal to limit funds for certain counseling centers is seen by some as the Biden administration’s latest effort to broaden access to abortion through federal policies. On the other hand, states with conservative leanings have implemented significant limitations on reproductive healthcare following a Supreme Court ruling in 2022 that curtailed women’s access to abortion.

This week, legislation was introduced by Congressional Republicans to prevent the Health and Human Services Agency from imposing restrictions on the funds allocated to the centers. The bill is highly unlikely to pass this year.

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GOP Legislation Aims to Safeguard Funding for Anti-Abortion Centers Amid Controversy

During a House Ways and Means Committee hearing to mark up the legislation, Republican Rep. Darin LaHood of Illinois emphasized the significance of pregnancy centers as a valuable alternative for expectant mothers.

The anti-abortion counseling centers have gained significant traction among conservatives as a platform to express their opposition to abortions. A thorough investigation conducted by the Associated Press revealed that states have been allocating a growing amount of funds to these programs in the past decade. Since 2010, the centers have received approximately $500 million in taxpayer dollars from over a dozen states. Last year, Pennsylvania’s Democratic governor made the decision to reduce funding for all centers in the state budget.

The centers’ mission has sparked controversy due to concerns raised by critics. They argue that workers at these centers sometimes discourage pregnant patients from considering abortion and may provide misleading information about abortion and contraception. For instance, there have been claims that abortion can lead to breast cancer, which some find misleading. The majority of centers are affiliated with religious organizations and are not licensed healthcare facilities. Some clinics provide pregnancy tests, while others may offer additional medical services like ultrasounds.

According to Chelsey Youman, the national director of public policy for the Human Coalition, the organization is concerned about potential financial losses in the millions across its locations in Georgia, Ohio, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, and Texas. According to her, the potential implementation of the rule could potentially delay the company’s plans to expand to Louisiana and Indiana.

Youman asserts that her organization facilitates the connection of women to social services, such as Medicaid, while encouraging them to proceed with their pregnancy.

“The work we do is truly filled with compassion and love, providing care for women who are facing some of the most challenging moments of their lives,” Youman expressed.

HHS is proposing several adjustments that would alter the way states can utilize the $16.5 billion in block grants designated for the nation’s most vulnerable families. The proposal follows a well-known corruption scandal in Mississippi, where $77 million in TANF funds were wasted over a span of several years.

The restrictions aim to ensure that a larger portion of the funds directly support individuals from lower income brackets. According to the agency, the percentage of families in poverty receiving cash assistance has significantly decreased from almost 70% in 1996 to slightly above 21% in 2020. The plan would place limitations on how states can allocate funds for college scholarships and child care, for instance.

 

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