States to spend $13 million in 2007 to dissuade women from abortion

States in 2007 have budgeted about $13 million in public funds to subsidize family planning services and pregnancy centers in an attempt to dissuade women from seeking abortions, the Los Angeles Times reports.

According to the Times, at least eight states use funds to finance programs "explicitly designed to steer women away from abortion." Grants to such programs often prohibit counselors from referring women to any clinic that provides abortion services, the Times reports. In some cases, the grants ban counselors from discussing contraception. Some antiabortion advocates have said that the funding is both "practical and symbolic" and that it is a "way of putting the state's stamp of approval on their work," according to the Times. Some abortion-rights supporters have said more abortions would be prevented if state funding was increased to expand access to birth control. In addition, they have said the emphasis on abortion alternatives diverts funds from basic health care.

Texas Program

In addition, some states are restricting or eliminating public funds for abortion-rights groups, the Times reports. Still, many states fund Planned Parenthood, which received $80 million from states last year. Texas lawmakers in 2005 redirected $25 million over two years from a Planned Parenthood clinic in Austin, Texas, to primary care health clinics -- which provide contraception but not abortion services -- and $5 million to antiabortion centers that do not provide medical care, the Times reports (Simon, Los Angeles Times, 2/11). The Texas Health and Human Services Commission in March 2006 announced it had awarded the Texas Pregnancy Care Network -- a group that counsels women solely about abortion alternatives and does not offer family planning or contraception services -- the $5 million contract (Kaiser Daily Women's Health Policy Report, 3/28/06). According to the Houston Chronicle, the Texas Pregnancy Care Network has received $1.9 million in funds and has served fewer than 700 clients. Vincent Friedewald, executive director for the organization, said the group anticipates serving thousands of clients in 2007, although not the estimated 16,000 who would receive family planning services if the funds were allocated to the Planned Parenthood clinic. Stephanie Goodman, spokesperson for the state health commission, said the new program is intended "to serve a different population -- low-income women who are pregnant and want to have the child." She added, "The services they need are different and so are the costs." Heather Paffe, political director of the Texas Association of Planned Parenthood Affiliates, said, "We could have served 12,000 women with $1.9 million. ... To me, it sounds like a waste of taxpayer dollars." Laurie Felker Jones, deputy political director of NARAL Pro-Choice Texas, said the Texas Pregnancy Care Network is run by a group without experience in managing state money or in women's health care, adding that it is allocating money to "unlicensed and unregulated facilities." Friedewald said that the group is overseen by a board of expertise in contract management and that it holds facilities to high standards (Fikac, Houston Chronicle, 2/11).


Kaisernetwork.orgThis article is republished with kind permission from our friends at the The Kaiser Family Foundation. You can view the entire Kaiser Daily Health Policy Report, search the archives, or sign up for email delivery of in-depth coverage of health policy developments, debates and discussions. The Kaiser Daily Health Policy Report is published for Kaisernetwork.org, a free service of The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation. Copyright 2007 Advisory Board Company and Kaiser Family Foundation. All rights reserved.

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