This article originally appeared in The Progressive Pulse.
Budget talks are still stalled as Republicans and Democrats spar over Medicaid expansion. But, as previously reported in this space, there are many more questionable items in both the House and Senate proposed budgets, including increased funding for crisis pregnancy centers.
Crisis pregnancy centers regularly mislead women about their pregnancies with the ultimate aim of dissuading them from getting abortions, and a recent investigation from Rewire.News shows that they have been misleading the state, as well.
According to a recent Rewire.News report—and confirmed by the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS)—crisis pregnancy centers such as the Carolina Pregnancy Care Fellowship misspent approximately $50,000 in public funding over five years on explicitly religious materials, which violates federal law.
Some of these religious materials included “DVDs intended to help men ‘discover authentic manhood as modeled by Jesus Christ,’” according to a 2018 Rewire report. CPCF also used federal money to buy materials such as diapers, cribs, and formula—but clients had to “earn” these necessities by “writing Facebook reviews for the center” or going to church.
“The Rewire article documented what we’ve long known about anti-abortion fake health centers in North Carolina—their claims to providing quality, comprehensive medical care don’t hold up to scrutiny,” said Tara Romano, the executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice North Carolina, in an email.
But even after DHHS disavowed CPCF’s use of public money, saying in a statement that “these expenses should not have been approved and this spending is not consistent with federal law,” the state continued to approve the use of such religious materials. According to Rewire.News:
“Documents obtained through a public records request revealed the state approved materials that encouraged parents to pray with their children, told men whose partners have had abortions to ‘handle your personal guilt before God,’ and exhorted women to embrace the ‘blessing’ of marriage as ‘a sacred institution created by God in the Garden of Eden.’”
After learning of the misuse of public funds by CPCF, DHHS failed to inform the state legislature, whose budgets include more than $2 million in recurring and nonrecurring funds to crisis pregnancy centers, many of which are subsidiaries of CPCF.
To recap: CPCF misspent a lot of federal money, so North Carolina is giving them even more state money.
Representative Julie von Haefen (D-Wake) is one of the lawmakers who reached out to DHHS independently to obtain information about anti-choice groups such as CPCF and the Human Coalition.
“I’ve been trying to draw attention” to crisis pregnancy center funding “over the last few months,” von Haefen told Policy Watch. “When the budget was first introduced, I actually filed an amendment to get the funding removed.”
Von Haefen said she was aware of the DHHS report showing that Human Coalition was in violation of their contract and had written to DHHS asking for more information.
Last year, state Representative Deb Butler (D-Brunswick) proposed an amendment to redirect funds meant for crisis pregnancy centers to substance abuse treatment centers. Her proposal failed.
This year, Senator Natasha Marcus (D-Mecklenburg) tried again to delete CPC funding from the Senate budget. Her effort failed, as did Rep. Rachel Hunt’s (D-Mecklenburg) amendment to divert funding from CPCF and the Human Coalition and repurpose it to aid Smart Start, a public/private partnership to better the health and education of children.
“Whether it’s public education needs or purchasing ultrasound machines for public health clinics instead of for crisis pregnancy centers, there’s so many other things we could use that money for,” said von Haefen.
Governor Cooper’s recommended budget proposal does not include money for crisis pregnancy centers.
You can read the most recent Rewire.News investigation here.