Signe Espinoza, Planned Parenthood Pennsylvania Advocates executive director, speaks during a press conference in Harrisburg on Tuesday, April 11, 2023. (Capital-Star photo by Cassie Miller)
Pennsylvania reproductive health advocates want the next state budget to defund so-called “crisis pregnancy centers,” arguing that they use misleading practices to discourage people from getting an abortion.
On Tuesday, Planned Parenthood Pennsylvania Advocates, the political wing of the reproductive health organization, urged lawmakers in the now-divided Legislature and Democratic Gov. Josh Shapiro to stop allocating public money to Real Alternatives, an anti-abortion organization with clinics statewide.
The Capitol news conference came ahead of a House Appropriations Committee hearing with the Department of Human Services on its 2023-24 budget request.
Pennsylvania’s years-long agreement with Real Alternatives has always spurred controversy, but since the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade last summer, advocates want to ensure CPCs don’t receive any state dollars and that abortion remains legal statewide.
“Their deceptive practices often delay patients to the point where abortion becomes inaccessible in Pennsylvania,” Signe Espinoza, PPPA’s executive director, said of CPCs. “They provide no prenatal care, and they often force a religious agenda on the people who walk through their doors. These centers should receive state investigation, not a $6 million handout.”
Those who support CPCs work argue that they offer alternatives to abortion. In Pennsylvania, there are 160 CPCs.
Shapiro’s proposed spending plan, unveiled in March, includes roughly $6 million for the centers, including a $1 million allotment from the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families line item, which aims to support low-income households.
That’s similar to last year’s budget signed by former Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf, which allocated more than $7.2 million to Real Alternatives.
Pennsylvania is one of nine states that allocates federal funding earmarked for families in extreme poverty — mostly women, children, and people of color — to the so-called crisis pregnancy centers.
“Three out of four Pennsylvanians who qualify for TANF are denied it, yet 100% of six-figure, anti-abortion executives willing to take those funds get it,” Tara Murtha, director of strategic communications for the Women’s Law Project, said. “TANF is not meant to be a slush fund for special interests. This grave injustice has been perpetuated by Pennsylvania for decades, and we demand it ends now.”
The calls to end state funding for anti-abortion clinics come just days after a federal judge in Texas blocked the FDA’s approval of Mifepristone, one of two medications used to terminate an early pregnancy.
On Monday, the U.S. Department of Justice appealed the ruling to the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals, arguing that blocking the FDA’s approval of the drug would irreparably harm patients, healthcare systems, and businesses.”
Shapiro called the ruling an “attempt to restrict access” and “just another attack on a woman’s right to choose.”
In response to the Texas ruling, the Shapiro administration launched a website this week to connect Pennsylvanians seeking abortion care with information about medication and in-clinic abortions, as well as information on finding providers.
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