War on Pro-Life Pregnancy Centers Continues with Removal of Federal Funding

The Office of Family Assistance says programs that assist pregnant women do not prevent out-of-wedlock births.
War on Pro-Life Pregnancy Centers Continues with Removal of Federal Funding
Headquarters building of the Department of Health and Human Services in Washington on Jan. 12, 2019. (DCStockPhotography/Shutterstock)
Beth Brelje

The federal Office of Family Assistance has proposed a change to welfare policy that would defund pregnancy resource centers offering alternatives to abortion.

The centers make it possible for pregnant women to keep their babies by helping them build a stable life by providing parenting classes, baby clothes, diapers, and sometimes a monthly payment to bridge them into housing or work. The agency wants fewer babies born to single mothers.

“The Biden administration has had an agenda for the last three years of pushing every single woman towards abortion,” Katie G. Daniel, state policy director at Susan B. Anthony Pro-Life America, told The Epoch Times.

“By removing pregnancy centers as a partner with this funding, once again they’re putting their thumb on the scale.”
Katie G. Daniel (Susan B. Anthony Pro-Life America)
Katie G. Daniel (Susan B. Anthony Pro-Life America)

The Office of Family Assistance, a division of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, provides $16.6 billion annually to states through the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program.

States use some TANF funds for monthly welfare payments directly to low-income families with children.

Other TANF funds help families through work-related activities, child care, and refundable tax credits.

States have flexibility in operating programs designed to help families achieve economic self-sufficiency, according to the HHS website. The programs must work toward one or more of these four goals of the Office of Family Assistance:
  1. Provide assistance to needy families so that children may be cared for in their own homes.
  2. End the dependence of needy parents on government benefits by promoting job preparation, work, and marriage.
  3. Prevent and reduce the incidence of out-of-wedlock pregnancies
  4. Encourage the formation and maintenance of two-parent families.
The proposed rule change aims to “increase program integrity, clarify allowable uses of TANF, and reduce obstacles for individuals trying to access support,” HHS said in an October statement.

In some instances, states have used TANF funds to pay for activities with, “at best, tenuous connections to any TANF purpose,” HHS said in the notice of rule change.  More than $1 billion has been spent on college scholarships, including for middle- and high-income individuals without children, HHS said.

Scholarships and pregnancy resource centers have now fallen out of favor with the Office of Family Assistance.

“Programs that primarily provide pregnancy counseling to women only after they become pregnant likely do not meet the…standard because the connection to preventing and reducing out-of-wedlock pregnancies is tenuous or non-existent,” the HHS rule notice said.

“States that provide funding for these types of programs, including through entities sometimes known as crisis pregnancy centers or pregnancy resource centers, must be able to show that the expenditure actually accomplishes the TANF purpose.”

While the new rule seems to close the door on funding pregnancy resource centers, HHS approves of preventing pregnancies. Programs include comprehensive sex education, family planning services, pregnancy prevention programs, and community mobilization services for at-risk teens that increase access to pregnancy prevention programs.

While the proposed rule does not specify abortion services, many pregnancy prevention programs include abortions.

Shifting Funds to States

Until recently, five states still used some TANF funds for pregnancy resource centers: Indiana, Ohio, Missouri, Louisiana, and Pennsylvania. There had been more, but states have been pressured by pro-abortion groups to stop supporting pregnancy resource centers with TANF funds.

“Historically, a dozen states have previously used TANF money to partner with pregnancy centers,“ Ms. Daniel said. ”They’ve seen the pregnancy centers as good allies to effectuate the purposes of TANF to help low-income families become economically self-sufficient and to maintain strong, two-parent households.

“Those are the two, big, overarching goals of the program. And those are shared goals with pregnancy centers,” Ms. Daniel said.

TANF is also focused on material assistance, another strength of pregnancy centers, making them natural partners, she said.

“But one of the big reasons many states have switched away from this and decided to just use state general funds to support their pregnancy centers is exactly the pressure we’re seeing now from the Biden administration. They can decide anytime…to come in and cut back contracts.”

Texas formerly used TANF money to support pregnancy centers but has shifted to using the state general fund.

Ohio is also shifting funding from TANF to state funds only.

The picture is also changing in Pennsylvania where, for nearly 30 years, Real Alternatives has administered Pennsylvania’s Pregnancy and Parenting Support Services program, which funds the state’s nonprofit pregnancy resource centers. Gov. Josh Shapiro’s administration abruptly announced in August that it would end the contract on Dec. 31.

‘On the Warpath’

“Pennsylvania’s Democrat, pro-abortion governor has been on the warpath against the pregnancy centers. And so even though Pennsylvania’s Real Alternatives has a proven track record of success, he’s decided to send that money elsewhere,” Daniel said.

“It wouldn’t surprise me at all if he redirects Pennsylvania’s funds away from proven, award-winning pregnancy centers to his friends at Planned Parenthood, because they see the only way to prevent out-of-wedlock pregnancies as, not for mom and dad to get married, but for mom to abort the baby.”

Pennsylvania State Sen. Judy Ward also criticized the proposed HHS rule.

State Sen. Judy Ward (R-Pa.). (Judy Ward Staff)
State Sen. Judy Ward (R-Pa.). (Judy Ward Staff)

“For decades, pregnancy resource centers have been a godsend to so many women across Pennsylvania,” Ms. Ward told The Epoch Times in an email.

Since the 1990s these centers have served over 350,000 women in Pennsylvania during more than 1.8 million visits, providing them with counseling, material support, and parenting classes, she said.

“Most important of all, they provide love and hope to vulnerable women and babies that desperately need it.

“This recent move to target these centers is wrong. Sadly, instead of improving the Temporary Assistance to Needy Families program, HHS and the Biden administration are using the regulatory process to punish causes that they see as political enemies.”

The Epoch Times asked HHS what outcome would be preferred after a pregnancy occurs: encouraging unmarried pregnant women to seek abortion or offering them public assistance. HHS did not respond.

“The Biden administration continues its relentless mismanagement of government with this punitive rule change, which will hurt Missouri families and kids,” Missouri State Sen. Mary Elizabeth Coleman told The Epoch Times in an email.

“Rather than allowing states to decide who is best positioned to help families and kids, his administration is claiming they know more in Washington than we do in Missouri.”

Beth Brelje is a national, investigative journalist covering politics, wrongdoing, and the stories of everyday people facing extraordinary circumstances. Send her your story ideas: [email protected]