Commentary, News

Report: NCDHHS looking into use of public funds by “crisis pregnancy centers” to proselytize

In case you missed, the online nonprofit news outlet Rewire.News has a disturbing story about what so-called “crisis pregnancy centers”are doing with public dollars that are intended for use in promoting maternal and infant health. The story (“Anti-Choice Centers in North Carolina Use Federal Funds to Buy Programs Crafted to ‘Share Christ’”) describes an anti-abortion video used by the centers and purchased with federal funds funneled by the General Assembly through an umbrella group known as the Carolina Pregnancy Care Fellowship. The video are used as part of something called the “Earn While You Learn” program that is designed to convince women not to obtain abortions.

This is from the story:

The program, called ‘Earn While You Learn,’ is used by as many as 2,000 centers nationwide, its founder, Dinah Monahan, told Rewire.News. In an introductory video on the program’s website, Monahan says her model is aimed at combating the ‘entitlement mentality’—while helping anti-choice centers expand their ministry and create openings to ‘share Christ.’

For the past several years, the North Carolina state legislature has directed a portion of its federal Maternal and Child Health block grant to the Carolina Pregnancy Care Fellowship (CPCF), an umbrella group of anti-choice centers; that allotment is $400,000 annually for the current fiscal year and next.

Records show anti-choice centers subcontracted by CPCF have, since at least the 2015 budget year, used a portion of these funds to buy Earn While You Learn (EWYL) materials and incentives for those who complete them, with plans to buy more next year. The documents also reveal that centers, with approval from state regulators, purchased religious materials with federal funds, including DVDs intended to help men ‘discover authentic manhood as modeled by Jesus Christ.’”

Happily, it appears that the Cooper administration is looking into the matter. As the story goes on to report:

“‘These expenses should not have been approved and this spending is not consistent with federal law,’ the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) said in a statement, after Rewire.News brought these purchases to the agency’s attention. ‘We are strengthening oversight of this program and exploring repayment options.’”

The story goes on to explain many other potential problems with the educational materials and practices (in which, for instance, women “earn” the right to buy products like diapers and car seats by watching videos and filling out worksheets) being used by the centers.

“’There just isn’t a lot of data to show that [adding requirements] helps people in the long term,’ Whitney Tucker, research director of NC Child, told Rewire.News. ‘The more we try to put these strings on people’s basic needs, the more we’re just creating additional toxic stress in the lives of families that are already struggling to make ends meet in the state.’

North Carolina is ranked 39th in the nation in infant mortality. Black infants in the state are nearly three times more likely than white infants to die before their first birthday. Reproductive health advocates say every dollar of federal funds to address this crisis should go to evidence-based programs, not those with an anti-choice agenda.

‘This is a diversion of funds for programs that we don’t know are actually providing any kind of benefit,’ Tara Romano, executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice North Carolina, told Rewire.News.”

The bottom line: Nobody disputes the right of private organizations to preach an anti-abortion message or promote a particular religious message, but they should not be allowed to proselytize with public dollars or mislead women seeking actual health care under any circumstances. Let’s hope that DHHS completes its investigation and takes action to end any public support for such activities right away.

Click here to read the rest of the Rewire.News story.

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