US states take control of abortion debate with focus on funding

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — Though the Insight Women’s Center sits at the epicenter of a reignited struggle in the nation’s culture wars, the only clue to its religious mission to dissuade people from abortion is the jazzy rendition at the piano from “Jesus Loves”. Me” played in a waiting room.

The Republican-controlled Kansas Legislature is considering allocating millions of dollars in public funds to similar anti-abortion centers that persuade people to terminate their pregnancies by offering free pregnancy tests and ultrasounds, as well as classes counseling and education led by volunteers. They also plan to offer millions more in income tax credits to donors who support what they call “crisis pregnancy centers.”

When the United States Supreme Court ruled in Roe v. Wade and gave control of abortion policy to the states, resulting in bans and restrictions in some states and regulations and laws protecting access in others. These debates continue, but perhaps less attention is paid to how this change is fueling a new fight for taxpayers’ money.

Supporters say the effort shows anti-abortion people care about the social and financial needs of families. But critics say the amount of new funding on offer for organizations like Insight – in the form of direct funding or tax credits for their donors – falls far short of what is needed to improve people’s access to care. health and fight persistent poverty.

“You’re funneling money through a short-term fix that feels like you’re doing something,” said Alesha Doan, an associate professor at the University of Kansas who has studied abortion politics and written stories. books about it.

More liberal cities and states are funding access to abortion, including telemedicine, which has seen a notable increase as more than half of abortions in the United States are now performed using pills rather than surgery. Meanwhile, states with GOP legislatures and governors are trying to funnel more taxpayer dollars to organizations that discourage people from terminating their pregnancies.

Legislative committees held hearings Thursday on proposals for a 70% tax credit for donors who support anti-abortion centers, with a cap of $10 million in total credits. A Senate committee could vote this week.

It’s similar to a long-standing Missouri law that gives income tax credits to donors who support anti-abortion centers. Arizona has such a law, and the Republican Speaker of the Mississippi House is seeking to raise the cap on the tax credit to $10 million, from the $3.5 million approved last year.

According to the National Right to Life Committee, Arkansas and Oklahoma are considering adding similar tax credits.

In Missouri, donors to anti-abortion centers have received a total of $15 million in state tax credits over the past five years, and a state analysis estimates the centers have served approximately 43,000 people last year.

Abortion advocates have operated centers like Insight for decades, and the practice of conservative-run states offering them financial assistance dates back to Dobbs’ decision in June to condemn Roe v. to die for Wade.

On the abortion rights side, the Oregon legislature last year created a $15 million abortion access fund, with the first million going to a nonprofit that pays the cost of travel and abortion procedures that patients cover. California, Connecticut, New Jersey, New York, and Washington have also provided or are considering providing public funding for abortion or related services.

In New Mexico, Democratic Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham last year pledged $10 million in public funding to build a new abortion clinic.

Morgan Hopkins, president of abortion rights group All Above All, welcomed the funding. “Budgets reflect our values,” she said.

Kansas already provides grants for programs that provide prenatal care and encourage people to carry their pregnancies to term. But it spends less than $339,000 of a $24 billion state budget on the program — and has awarded just two grants totaling less than $74,000 to anti-abortion centers.

Now, some anti-abortion advocates are talking about emulating Missouri’s annual funding of more than $8 million plus income tax credits.

Abortion rights advocates are frustrated that the push for such support comes so soon after an Aug. 2 statewide vote that firmly rejected a proposed Kansas Constitution amendment. that would have allowed legislators to severely restrict or ban abortion.

“I’m generally concerned that we’re not respecting the very clear will of the voters,” said State Sen. Ethan Corson, a Kansas City-area Democrat who serves on the Senate Tax Committee.

Abortion rights advocates say the centers lure patients away from abortion clinics with free services, giving them inaccurate medical information and counseling from people who are not trained therapists. Some see their funding as a political move to make abortion bans less severe.

Abortion advocates argue that centers like Insight offer patients a wide range of prenatal and postnatal classes in addition to other forms of help. They also argue that increasing funding for free services after the August vote is a commitment not to let parents and families down.

In Lawrence, where the nearest abortion clinic is a 40-minute drive away, 28-year-old Korbe Bohac is still attending the Insight center nearly eight months after giving birth to her son Winston. She told lawmakers the classes and counseling made her a better, more confident mother – and helped her stay sane. She called it “a safety net.”

The Insight Center, which is a few miles from the University of Kansas, has two ultrasound nurses, as well as a sometimes volunteer physician and radiologist. But the services mainly depend on about fifty volunteers. The $340,000 annual budget is funded primarily by private donations, but the organization received a community development grant in 2014 to launch parent education programs.

Center staff said they discuss abortion as an option, although they do not refer clients to abortion providers. They said some patients who met them had had abortions, although it was not possible to verify patient privacy logs.

Insight has two separate waiting rooms – one for its educational programs and one for medical services. Executive Director Bridgit Smith said one of the reasons was to discourage pregnant patients from seeing babies and young children.

Smith said she thinks the proposed tax credit will increase donations and help Insight open a maternity home for the homeless.

“We try to build strong individuals and strong families. And don’t we all want that? said Smith. “Even for the woman who doesn’t choose parenthood, we want her to be strong and healthy after the decision.”


Mulvihill reported from Cherry Hill, New Jersey. Emily Wagster Pettus in Jackson, Mississippi contributed to this report.


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John Hanna and Geoff Mulvihill, Associated Press


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