US states take control of abortion debate with focus on funding

LAWRENCE, Kan. — Though the Insight Women’s Center sits at the epicenter of a reinvigorated battle in the nation’s culture wars, the only clue to its faith-based mission to dissuade people from having abortions is the jazzy piano rendition of “Jesus Loves Me” playing in a waiting room. bedroom.

The Republican-controlled Kansas Legislature is considering allocating millions of dollars of public funds to similar anti-abortion centers that persuade people to carry their pregnancies to term by offering free pregnancy tests and ultrasounds, as well as counseling and parenting classes run 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 overturned Roe v. Wade last year and gave control of abortion policy to the states, resulting in bans and restrictions in some states and executive orders and laws protecting access in others. These debates continue, but perhaps less noticed is how this change has reignited the renewed battle over taxpayers’ money.

Supporters say the effort shows that abortion opponents are addressing the social and financial needs of families. But critics say the amount of new funding on offer for organizations like Insight – either in 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 solution that makes it look like you’re doing something,” said Alesha Doan, an associate professor at the University of Kansas who has studied and written books on the politics of abortion.

Increasingly, cities and liberal states are funding access to abortion, including telemedicine, which has seen a notable increase, with more than half of abortions in the United States now performed with pills rather than with surgery. Meanwhile, states with GOP legislatures and governors are looking to invest more taxpayer dollars in organizations that dissuade 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 longstanding Missouri law that offers income tax credits to donors supporting anti-abortion centers. Arizona has such a law, and the Republican House Speaker in Mississippi is trying to expand the cap on tax credits to $10 million from the $3.5 million allowed last year.

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

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

Abortion opponents have operated centers like Insight for decades, and the practice of conservative-run states offering them financial assistance predates Dobbs — the June ruling overturning Roe v. Wade.

On the abortion rights side, Oregon lawmakers created a $15 million abortion access fund last year, with the first million going to a nonprofit that covers patient travel and procedure costs. California, Connecticut, New Jersey, New York, and Washington have also allocated or are considering providing public funding for abortions or related services.

In New Mexico last year, Democratic Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham pledged $10 million in public funds for the construction of a new abortion clinic.

Morgan Hopkins, president of abortion rights group All (asterisk) Above All, welcomed the funding. “Budgets are a reflection of our values,” she said.

Kansas already provides grants to 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 abortion opponents are talking about mimicking Missouri’s annual funding of more than $8 million, plus income tax credits.

Abortion-rights supporters are frustrated that the push for such support comes so soon after an Aug. 2 statewide vote that decisively rejected a proposed constitutional amendment. of Kansas that would have allowed lawmakers to dramatically restrict or ban abortion.

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

Abortion rights advocates say the centers are steering 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 opponents argue that centers like Insight offer patients a wide range of prenatal and postnatal classes, in addition to other supports. They also argue that increased funding for free services after the August vote is a promise 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 visiting the Insight center nearly 8 months after the birth of his son Winston. She told lawmakers the classes and counseling made her a better, more confident parent – and helped preserve her sanity. She called it “a safety net.”

The Insight Center, which is only a few miles from the University of Kansas, has two ultrasound nurses, and a doctor and a radiologist sometimes volunteer their time. But the services mostly depend on about 50 volunteers. The annual budget of $340,000 is mostly provided by private donations, but the organization received a community development grant in 2014 to launch parent education programs.

Staff at the center said while they don’t refer clients to abortion providers, they do discuss abortion as an option. They said some patients who saw them later had abortions, although it was not possible to verify patient confidentiality protocols.

Insight has two separate waiting rooms – one for its educational programs and one for medical services. Executive Director Bridgit Smith said one reason is that it prevents pregnant patients from being influenced by the sight of babies and toddlers.

Smith said she thinks the proposed tax credit will increase donations, helping Insight start a maternity ward for homeless people.

“We try to build strong individuals and strong families. And isn’t that what we all want? said Smith. “Even for the woman who doesn’t choose to be a mother, we still 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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