Texas' state-funded crisis pregnancy centres gave misinformation to NBC News producers.

More than 2,500 Crisis Pregnancy Centers (CPCs), located across the United States, offer free counseling and services to women who are experiencing unplanned pregnancies.

NewsEditor
NewsEditor
02 July 2022 Saturday 16:21
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Texas' state-funded crisis pregnancy centres gave misinformation to NBC News producers.

More than 2,500 Crisis Pregnancy Centers (CPCs), located across the United States, offer free counseling and services to women who are experiencing unplanned pregnancies. They are 3 to 1 in number, and will continue to grow as more states close abortion clinics following Roe's reversal.

Two NBC News producers went to Texas state-funded CPCs for counseling. Counselors said that abortions can cause mental illness, and also implied that they could lead to cancer and infertility.

American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (the nation's largest obstetricians' organization), says it's medical misinformation.

Centers that are faith-based often receive funding from individual donors and religious groups. However, many depend partially on taxpayer funds. CPCs have been accused of misleading or falsifying information in order to discourage women from having abortions. NBC News was one of the first to witness this when it sent two producers to Texas CPCs to seek counseling.

CPCs were not informed by the producers that they were working with NBC News.

A female staffer at a CPC near Mexico border suggested that abortions could cause cancer and infertility. She also played a video saying abortions can cause mental illness.

A volunteer at another CPC in Dallas revealed that they do not offer abortions. She then claimed that infertility can be caused by abortions. When asked about the abortion pill, the volunteer said that she was not there to scare people. She pointed to a model of a fetus in plastic and said, "Can't you picture one of these in your pants?"

She said, "Because government stuff... I can pray to you. "I can't pray for you," she said, and sent the producer home with a pair knit baby booties.

CPCs were 9 to 1 in Texas before Roe v. Wade was reversed by the Supreme Court.

The Texas Legislature established a program called Alternatives to Abortion (or A2A) in 2005 to help fund the state's CPCs. The program cost $5 million each year in Texas at first, but the state has now spent $100 million on it for 2022-2023 according to public records.

A2A's mission statement is to "reduce abortions" and "improve pregnancy outcomes," "improve family health and development" as well as "improve families economic self-sufficiency". The program also funds resources such CPCs and resources such as maternity homes for pregnant women who are homeless and adoption centers. Although Texas facilities do not have licensed medical providers, some women believe they are.

Texas state representative Donna Howard, a Democrat hailing from Austin, stated that the program was a waste of taxpayer money and that there were no "metrics" that indicated it had anything to do with preventing abortions. Howard, a former president of Texas Nurses Association and critical care nurse, claimed that the misinformation Texas CPC counselors provided to NBC News producers was offensive and shameful.

Sarah Davis, a former GOP Texas State Representative from Houston, stated that it was "not only a terrible thing for a women to be told, and medically, completely inaccurate, but also I don't get why conservatives who are always promoting the party of fiscal accountability... turn blind eyes to this." Davis and Howard worked together for 10 years in the state House demanding accountability for A2A.

A Texas law made it illegal to have an abortion after six weeks, even though many women don't know they are pregnant. It was passed late last year. Texas now has a trigger law that will ban virtually all abortions. Roe v. Wade was overturned.

Texas women who want to have abortions in Texas will now need to leave the state. But before Roe's reversal they were already leaving. Researchers at the University of Texas at Austin found that women seeking an abortion went ahead regardless of any restrictions imposed by state abortion laws. According to the study, nearly 1,400 Texans had traveled out of state to get abortions by the end of the last year. The study found that 44% of women who were interviewed had visited a CPC prior to having an out-of state abortion. This, according to the study, "delay their progress towards care."

CPCs in Texas and across the U.S. will continue to offer pregnancy counseling despite the Roe decision being reversed. The Associated Press calculated that at least 13 states spent almost half a million dollars in the last dozen years to finance crisis pregnancy centers.

Davis stated, "They're going nowhere." "They have to be regulated. I don't know their activities and if they are going to take my money, my taxpayer funds, I want to see how you're spending it."

The Texas Legislature reduced the family planning budget by nearly two-thirds in 2011. The Texas Legislature cut the family planning budget by 25%. This left nearly 25% of state's family-planning clinics closed. Many low-income women and uninsured women in the state without access or control over their health, including screening for cancer and providing wellness exams.

Davis stated that it was an attempt to get Texas rid of abortion and to kick Planned Parenthood from the state. To do this, the state took millions of dollars from the federal government for family planning that had no connection to abortion. The Legislature also steered more money to the A2A budget that year.

Since then, funding has been steadily increasing for other women's healthcare programs. Despite this, Texas has one of the highest maternal mortality rates in America, particularly among African American mothers. Texas has the highest percentage of uninsured mothers in the country, with one in four women in childbearing years. The state also has the highest number of repeat teen pregnancies.

The nonprofits provide similar services, including pregnancy tests, ultrasounds and parenting education. Experts say that while most facilities claim they offer "abortion info," this can cause confusion for pregnant women who want to be informed about their options. Many websites advertise "accurate" information and are evidence-based. However, they often have tiny print at their bottom that discloses that they don't offer or refer to for abortion terminations or birth control.

The state reimburses Texas centers for providing counseling and referring for government assistance programs. They also provide goods such as car seats and diapers, but not for medical services like ultrasounds or pregnancy tests.

These centers are funded by more than state dollars. According to public records, Texas funneled $45million of federal funds from Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF), into the A2A program between 2006 and 2021. This year, no TANF dollars have been transferred to the program.

A legislative report shows that Texas' A2A program provided 2,698,003 services to 126,533 clients last year. This means that each client received on average about 21 services.

Howard and Davis are unsure what the 21 services are and question their existence. Howard pointed out that pamphlets handed out and calls count as services.

The Charlotte Lozier Institute is an anti-abortion rights research arm at Susan B. Anthony Pro-Life America. It strongly disagreed with this statement, telling NBC News that these centers provide "accurate info on adoption, parenting classes, and prenatal healthcare services". Lozier has not funded or managed CPCs but has spoken in defense.

Howard and Davis said they also believe that the centers commit "fraud" in some cases. They cited misinformation at certain facilities and a case where the state stopped funding after the president a pregnancy centre allegedly used A2A money to purchase land for hemp cultivation, a smoke shop and limo rides.

According to the Charlotte Lozier Institute, "apparently those legislators never spoke with any Texas women who have received support from local pro-life pregnancy centres," and pointed out that a center's average client satisfaction rate is "above 95%."

The Charlotte Lozier Institute didn't deny that some centers provide inaccurate information to women about abortion and its dangers. The institute stated that the claim of "misinformation" has been used by many state and local governments to restrict pro-life centers. It also said that the real-world data don't support the industry's narrative.

Texas Governor is not available. Greg Abbott nor Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick replied to all requests for comment.

Maleeha Aziz was just 20 when she discovered she was pregnant. She had just moved to Texas for college. She was low on funds and booked an appointment at a facility that offered free ultrasounds. She didn't even know that it was a CPC.

She said that she felt a strange sensation when she walked in, and was struck by biblical imagery.

Two women in lab coats clad in white told her she was nine weeks pregnant. She also said that she would be infertile if she had an abortion.

Aziz got an abortion. She is now married and has a 2-year old daughter, whom she claims she planned for and loves greatly.

Aziz stated, "My abortion has not caused me any mental issues or guilt."

Aziz is now a reproductive rights advocate and works with the Texas Equal Access Fund (TEA), which assists low-income people to pay for abortions. She believes that anyone can access abortions in desperate circumstances and that legal and safe abortions will not be denied, especially for low-income individuals of color. Even though abortion is still legal in some areas, she said that if someone searches "abortion near me", they will be directed to a CPC and not an abortion clinic.

TEA Fund clients who are in need of abortions will have to leave the state, but TEA Fund is still waiting to decide what its role should become after Roe. It has temporarily suspended its funding and helpline.

Aziz stated that a client made an appointment at a New Mexico facility recently, believing she could have an abortion there. She arrived to discover that it was a crisis pregnancy center.

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