Under the new budget the Michigan legislature approved this month, a right-wing organization that dissuades women from choosing abortion will receive $800,000 in state dollars, according to the Detroit News. The money is specifically intended to fund programs “to promote childbirth.”
If the budget is approved by Gov. Rick Snyder (R), an anti-abortion organization named Real Alternatives will be the sole recipient of the $800,000 contract. The group had a similar partnership with Michigan during the state’s last budget cycle.
Real Alternatives helps crisis pregnancy centers — faith-based organizations that use deceptive tactics to counsel women against ending a pregnancy — navigate the requirements that regulate the separation of church and state. They stipulate that CPCs need to separate prayer and Bible studies from their other services. Through Real Alternatives’ help, CPCs can still receive state funds.
For instance, over the past 18 years, the organization has gotten millions of dollars through the Pennsylvania Health Department to administer the state’s “Alternatives to Abortion Services Program.” Real Alternatives has also advised similar abortion alternatives programs in Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, Florida, and Minnesota.
Even though Real Alternatives maintains some separation of church and state, its anti-abortion agenda is only thinly veiled. The organization’s website includes information about how women can tell their parents and boyfriends they’re keeping their baby, how to avoid being coerced into having an abortion, and the potential abortion risks they should ask their doctor about. “During the seventh through the tenth week, when the majority of abortions are performed, fingers and genitals appear and the child’s face is recognizably human,” Real Alternatives explains on a page entitled “What Abortion Is.”
The Detroit News reports that family planning groups in Michigan are upset that the state is spending so much money on “abortion alternatives” when it could be funding preventative services like birth control instead. Real Alternatives’ $800,000 contract is roughly equivalent to the amount the state is spending on pregnancy prevention and family planning services in 2014 and 2015. On top of that, the state is discontinuing a public family planning program for low-income women at the end of this month.
“We all want to reduce unplanned pregnancy and abortion, but my conservative colleagues don’t want to talk about contraception, about what works,” State Rep. Jeff Irwin (D) pointed out. “They want to talk about using state resources to advance their religious ideologies.”
It’s not entirely uncommon for states like Michigan and Pennsylvania to funnel state dollars toward crisis pregnancy centers. According to NARAL Pro-Choice America, which has been working to expose CPCs’ tactics for years, 10 states use their budgets to directly fund those organizations. There are also a couple of other indirect ways that lawmakers can support CPCs. Many states allow people to purchase “Choose Life” license plates at the DMV and put those proceeds toward crisis pregnancy centers. Others include CPCs on a list of state-approved clinics where low-income women can receive medical care.
According to Donna Crane, NARAL’s policy director, the states that are agreeing to fund CPCs are ultimately “complicit in lying to women.”
“Their ‘abortion alternatives’ branding is a lie. The whole business model is based on the idea that you can’t be honest with women about abortion,” Crane told ThinkProgress. “Real health centers give information about all choices and don’t withhold the facts about any medical option. No matter what one thinks about abortion — no matter whether you or I would choose that for ourselves — I think everyone in America agrees that no one should be lied to in what looks like a doctor’s office.”