NRLC Recycles Debunked Born Alive Attacks

Emily Douglas

Senator John McCain repeated long debunked lies about Sen. Barack Obama's record on the Illinois Born Alive Protection Act, lies that have been repeated and discredited since Alan Keyes lost to Obama for Senate seat in 2004.

In the final presidential debate, Senator John McCain repeated long debunked lies about Sen. Barack Obama’s record on the Illinois Born Alive Infant Protection Act, lies that have been repeated and discredited since Alan Keyes lost to Obama in the US Senate race in 2004.  This full frontal effort may appeal to the extreme far-right of McCain’s base, but proved to be a dial test loser on CNN. Americans are fed up with the far-right’s Culture War. The CBS insta-poll shows Obama winning the debate 53 percent to 22 percent with 24 percent saying is was a draw.

The extreme fringe of anti-choice community has been pushing this attack for months, in television and radio ads from 527s and special interest lobbyists like the National Right to Life Committee.

The coordinated efforts are suggest that in voting against the Illinois Born Alive Infant Protection Act Senator Barack Obama is "responsible for killing a bill to provide care and protection for
babies who are born alive after abortions" and that "he later
misrepresented the bill’s content." NRLC has filed a request for an advisory opinion from the FEC as to whether the ad falls within FEC guidelines, TPM reported.

The anti-choice movement says it needs to correct the record. The Obama campaign maintains that the Senator opposed the state bill but would have supported the federal version because the federal bill, unlike the state bill, couldn’t have affected or undermined existing abortion law.  In an interview with the Christian Broadcasting Network’s David Brody,
Obama said of National Right to Life Committee (NRLC), "here’s a situation where folks are lying." Then in August, NRLC produced documentation showing that the 2003 version of the Born Alive bill
included an amendment protecting Roe, rendering the state bill virtually
identical to the federal bill, which Obama says he would have supported.

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But, points
out the non-partisan, independent FactCheck.org
, since state, not federal law, governs the actual practice
of abortion care, even with the stipulation that the bill does not provide
protections to "any member of the species homo sapiens at any point prior to
being born alive as defined in this Section," the bill could still have been
used to interfere with abortion provisions. 
A 2003 Planned Parenthood fact sheet explained:

SB 1082 & SB 1083 are NOT the same as the so-called
"Born Alive Infant Protection Act" which was recently passed in the U. S.
House. The federal legislation is considered to be a restatement of existing
federal law. It does not amend or change current Illinois law. Federal law does not regulate
abortion practice. That is left to the states. Therefore, it is state
legislation that would affect abortion practice in Illinois. The package of SB 1082 & SB
1083 creates new provisions in Illinois
law. Although the definition is similar to the proposed federal legislation,
its application would have a different impact on state abortion law. 

Also unlike the federal bill, the package of bills under
consideration by the Illinois State Senate included a measure that would have
permitted legal action "on the child’s behalf." In other words, doctors and
health care facilities could be held liable for damages, "including costs of
care to preserve and protect the life, health and safety of the child, punitive
damages, and costs and attorney’s fees," if the hospital, health care facility
or health care provider "harms or neglects the child or fails to provide
medical care to the child after the child’s birth." 

Planned Parenthood’s Pam Sutherland told
the New York Times
, "I can tell you the sponsors always wanted the entire
package of bills, which were introduced together and analyzed together…They never wanted them separated, because
they wanted to make sure that physicians would be chilled into not performing
abortions for fear of going to jail
" (emphasis mine).

When a 2005 version of the bill with the explicit protection for state abortion law Obama had held out for was considered, it passed the state Senate unanimously.  Obama had left the State Senate for Washington by the
time
the bill came to a vote. But Obama campaign spokesman Tommy Vietor has
said
that Obama would have voted for that bill if he had been a state
legislator
when it was considered, much as he says he would have supported the
federal
bill, which wouldn’t have impacted non-existent federal law.

Existing Law Protected Infants

Pam Sutherland of Planned Parenthood of Illinois explains
that there is no way to verify how many, if any,
abortions result in viable live births, as Illinois does not track these
statistics. Still, regardless of the number of such births, these infants
deserve to be protected.

But existing law in Illinois
clearly required doctors to provide medical care in the unlikely event that a
viable fetus was born as a result of an abortion procedure. "Nothing in BAIPA
addressed this situation in some way that wasn’t already covered," explains
Mary Dixon, legislative director at the ACLU of Illinois. In any such instance,
Illinois law
stipulates that the child receive medical care by pediatric specialist to
maximize chances of survival.

Obama acknowledged
this when registering his opposition to BAIPA. 
To the state Senate on April 4, 2002, Obama explained, "This issue
ultimately is about abortion and not live births. Because if there are children
being born alive, I, at least, have confidence that a doctor who is in that
room is going to make sure that they’re looked after."

In addition, BAIPA was riddled with provisions that alarmed
both defenders of abortion rights and the mainstream medical community in Illinois, including
the Illinois Hospital Association and the Illinois State Medical Society, both
of which opposed the package of bills. 
Defenders of abortion rights said that the state law could come into
conflict with existing law regulating abortion, and could potentially be used
to undermine or challenge Roe v. Wade.  Hospitals
and physicians’ associations, meanwhile, decried the bill’s interference with
the physician-patient relationship and the harsh civil and criminal penalties
that could be imposed on physicians and hospitals who perform abortions that
result in a "live-born" fetus.

Equally troubling is the fact that the law Obama opposed
would have required doctors to make efforts at life-saving for any infant that
shows a "sign of life" even when there was no chance the baby would survive, a
practice that Dr. Lauren Streicher, an obstetrician at Northwestern Medical
Hospital who often
delivers pre-term babies who will not survive, refers to as "torture." "When
you deliver a baby" – either through labor or termination – "that is clearly
not going to be viable, we knew 100 percent it would not survive, there are two
courses you could take," explains Streicher. "You could wrap the baby up in a
blanket, give him or her comfort care, let the parents hold the baby, say
goodbye, and go through the grieving process. Or, if we were required to make
survival efforts, the baby is whisked away by the high-risk pediatrician and
tubes start going in.  It’s torture for
the baby, terrible for the parents, who have most often lost a desperately
desired pregnancy."

Says Dr. Streicher, "A fetus that can clearly be ‘not
viable’ could potentially be born with a stable heart-beat.  Is that a sign of life? Yes. Is that fetus
then viable? No."

Campaigns Volley BAIPA Ads

Obama’s votes on the Born Alive Infant Protection Act have been subject to attack ads dating as far back as his race for the U.S. Senate against Alan Keyes in 2004. Current television ads targeting voters in Ohio and New Mexico feature
thirty-one-year-old Gianna Jessen imploring Barack Obama, "Sen. Obama, please
support born alive infant protections." Jessen’s story?  She
was born through a "failed abortion," and she and BornAliveTruth.org, the 527 "independent" political committee
responsible for the ads, maintain that by voting against BAIPA, Obama neglected to
support the highest possible standard of care for infants in Illinois.

Beliefnet.com editor-in-chief Steven Waldman observes, "the one thing [the ad] does not prove is its central political claim…the key legal goal [of the Born Alive Infant Protection Act] was not protecting viable infants –
who already were protected under law – but non-viable infants and those
on the borderline. Gianna Jessen, by her own account, was a clear ‘viable’ infant. She was
aborted at seven and half months, and therefore would have almost
certainly been covered by any existing statute."

BornAliveTruth was founded by Jill Stanek, the anti-choice
blogger and a nurse who testified in front of Congress that she witnessed
infants not provided appropriate medical care after abortion (Stanek’s testimony
does not specify whether the infants were viable). The ads are bank-rolled by abstinence-only profiteer Raymond Ruddy, who
has supported far-right anti-choice and anti-gay initiatives across the
country, and whose company, Maximus, has received over $100 million in federal
contracts from the Bush administration to promote abstinence-only-until-marriage programs.

 

Obama, for his part, has responded
directly to BornAliveTruth’s ads
The ad, which began
airing September 21, tells viewers, "Now votes taken out of context, accusing
Obama of letting infants die? It’s a despicable lie." FactCheck.org
has weighed in with a clear-eyed assessment of the volley
, writing that:

In
the ad, Jessen says that "if Senator Obama had his way, I wouldn’t be
here." She’s wrong. Anyone born in Illinois
under the same circumstances as Jessen (who was actually born in California) would have
been protected under the state’s law as it stood, with or without the
legislation that Obama opposed.

But
FactCheck.org also points out that Obama’s response included misstatements.  Obama’s ad implies that the McCain campaign
itself had sponsored the ad, when BornAliveTruth.org did; it also accuses McCain of
opposing abortion including in cases of rape and incest, which running mate Sarah
Palin does but McCain doesn’t.

 

Will Palin Bring Up BAIPA?

GOP Vice-Presidential nominee Sarah Palin suggested that Obama hasn’t heard the end of BAIPA from her, either. In an interview with Katie Couric, Palin suggested that passage of BAIPA was necessary to ensure the provision of life-saving medical care to viable babies and, moreover, that Obama would allow medical help not to be administered in such situations. "And those who, like Barack Obama, would support measures that would
actually allow in a botched abortion, late-term abortion, that child
being born alive, to allow it to not receive medical help to save that
child’s life," said Palin, "That’s extremism to me." If Palin throws another punch at Obama on BAIPA to stoke her religious right base, and if the FEC okays the National Right to Life Committee’s radio ads, we’ll undoubtedly see a new round of distortion over what BAIPA would actually do, and what Obama supports and believes.

Analysis Law and Policy

Indiana Court of Appeals Tosses Patel Feticide Conviction, Still Defers to Junk Science

Jessica Mason Pieklo

The Indiana Court of Appeals ruled patients cannot be prosecuted for self-inducing an abortion under the feticide statute, but left open the possibility other criminal charges could apply.

The Indiana Court of Appeals on Friday vacated the feticide conviction of Purvi Patel, an Indiana woman who faced 20 years in prison for what state attorneys argued was a self-induced abortion. The good news is the court decided Patel and others in the state could not be charged and convicted for feticide after experiencing failed pregnancies. The bad news is that the court still deferred to junk science at trial that claimed Patel’s fetus was on the cusp of viability and had taken a breath outside the womb, and largely upheld Patel’s conviction of felony neglect of a dependent. This leaves the door open for similar prosecutions in the state in the future.

As Rewire previously reported, “In July 2013 … Purvi Patel sought treatment at a hospital emergency room for heavy vaginal bleeding, telling doctors she’d had a miscarriage. That set off a chain of events, which eventually led to a jury convicting Patel of one count of feticide and one count of felony neglect of a dependent in February 2015.”

To charge Patel with feticide under Indiana’s law, the state at trial was required to prove she “knowingly or intentionally” terminated her pregnancy “with an intention other than to produce a live birth or to remove a dead fetus.”

According to the Indiana Court of Appeals, attorneys for the State of Indiana failed to show the legislature had originally passed the feticide statute with the intention of criminally charging patients like Patel for terminating their own pregnancies. Patel’s case, the court said, marked an “abrupt departure” from the normal course of prosecutions under the statute.

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“This is the first case that we are aware of in which the State has used the feticide statute to prosecute a pregnant woman (or anyone else) for performing an illegal abortion, as that term is commonly understood,” the decision reads. “[T]he wording of the statute as a whole indicate[s] that the legislature intended for any criminal liability to be imposed on medical personnel, not on women who perform their own abortions,” the court continued.

“[W]e conclude that the legislature never intended the feticide statute to apply to pregnant women in the first place,” it said.

This is an important holding, because Patel was not actually the first woman Indiana prosecutors tried to jail for a failed pregnancy outcome. In 2011, state prosecutors brought an attempted feticide charge against Bei Bei Shuai, a pregnant Chinese woman suffering from depression who tried to commit suicide. She survived, but the fetus did not.

Shuai was held in prison for a year until a plea agreement was reached in her case.

The Indiana Court of Appeals did not throw out Patel’s conviction entirely, though. Instead, it vacated Patel’s second charge of Class A felony conviction of neglect of a dependent, ruling Patel should have been charged and convicted of a lower Class D felony. The court remanded the case back to the trial court with instructions to enter judgment against Patel for conviction of a Class D felony neglect of a dependent, and to re-sentence Patel accordingly to that drop in classification.

A Class D felony conviction in Indiana carries with it a sentence of six months to three years.

To support Patel’s second charge of felony neglect at trial, prosecutors needed to show that Patel took abortifacients; that she delivered a viable fetus; that said viable fetus was, in fact, born alive; and that Patel abandoned the fetus. According to the Indiana Court of Appeals, the state got close, but not all the way, to meeting this burden.

According to the Indiana Court of Appeals, the state had presented enough evidence to establish “that the baby took at least one breath and that its heart was beating after delivery and continued to beat until all of its blood had drained out of its body.”

Therefore, the Court of Appeals concluded, it was reasonable for the jury to infer that Patel knowingly neglected the fetus after delivery by failing to provide medical care after its birth. The remaining question, according to the court, was what degree of a felony Patel should have been charged with and convicted of.

That is where the State of Indiana fell short on its neglect of a dependent conviction, the court said. Attorneys had failed to sufficiently show that any medical care Patel could have provided would have resulted in the fetus surviving after birth. Without that evidence, the Indiana Court of Appeals concluded, state attorneys could not support a Class A conviction. The evidence they presented, though, could support a Class D felony conviction, the court said.

In other words, the Indiana Court of Appeals told prosecutors in the state, make sure your medical experts offer more specific testimony next time you bring a charge like the one at issue in Patel’s case.

The decision is a mixed win for reproductive rights and justice advocates. The ruling from the court that the feticide statute cannot be used to prosecute patients for terminating their own pregnancy is an important victory, especially in a state that has sought not just to curb access to abortion, but to eradicate family planning and reproductive health services almost entirely. Friday’s decision made it clear to prosecutors that they cannot rely on the state’s feticide statute to punish patients who turn to desperate measures to end their pregnancies. This is a critical pushback against the full-scale erosion of reproductive rights and autonomy in the state.

But the fact remains that at both trial and appeal, the court and jury largely accepted the conclusions of the state’s medical experts that Patel delivered a live baby that, at least for a moment, was capable of survival outside the womb. And that is troubling. The state’s experts offered these conclusions, despite existing contradictions on key points of evidence such as the gestational age of the fetus—and thus if it was viable—and whether or not the fetus displayed evidence of life when it was born.

Patel’s attorneys tried, unsuccessfully, to rebut those conclusions. For example, the state’s medical expert used the “lung float test,” also known as the hydrostatic test, to conclude Patel’s fetus had taken a breath outside the womb. The test, developed in the 17th century, posits that if a fetus’ lungs are removed and placed in a container of liquid and the lungs float, it means the fetus drew at least one breath of air before dying. If the lungs sink, the theory holds, the fetus did not take a breath.

Not surprisingly, medical forensics has advanced since the 17th century, and medical researchers widely question the hydrostatic test’s reliability. Yet this is the only medical evidence the state presented of live birth.

Ultimately, the fact that the jury decided to accept the conclusions of the state’s experts over Patel’s is itself not shocking. Weighing the evidence and coming to a conclusion of guilt or innocence based on that evidence is what juries do. But it does suggest that when women of color are dragged before a court for a failed pregnancy, they will rarely, if ever, get the benefit of the doubt.

The jurors could have just as easily believed the evidence put forward by Patel’s attorneys that gestational age, and thus viability, was in doubt, but they didn’t. The jurors could have just as easily concluded the state’s medical testimony that the fetus took “at least one breath” was not sufficient to support convicting Patel of a felony and sending her to prison for 20 years. But they didn’t.

Why was the State of Indiana so intent on criminally prosecuting Patel, despite the many glaring weaknesses in the case against her? Why were the jurors so willing to take the State of Indiana’s word over Patel’s when presented with those weaknesses? And why did it take them less than five hours to convict her?

Patel was ordered in March to serve 20 years in prison for her conviction. Friday’s decision upends that; Patel now faces a sentence of six months to three years. She’s been in jail serving her 20 year sentence since February 2015 while her appeal moved forward. If there’s real justice in this case, Patel will be released immediately.

Analysis Abortion

‘Pro-Life’ Pence Transfers Money Intended for Vulnerable Households to Anti-Choice Crisis Pregnancy Centers

Jenn Stanley

Donald Trump's running mate has said that "life is winning in Indiana"—and the biggest winner is probably a chain of crisis pregnancy centers that landed a $3.5 million contract in funds originally intended for poor Hoosiers.

Much has been made of Republican Gov. Mike Pence’s record on LGBTQ issues. In 2000, when he was running for U.S. representative, Pence wrote that “Congress should oppose any effort to recognize homosexual’s [sic] as a ‘discreet and insular minority’ [sic] entitled to the protection of anti-discrimination laws similar to those extended to women and ethnic minorities.” He also said that funds meant to help people living with HIV or AIDS should no longer be given to organizations that provide HIV prevention services because they “celebrate and encourage” homosexual activity. Instead, he proposed redirecting those funds to anti-LGBTQ “conversion therapy” programs, which have been widely discredited by the medical community as being ineffective and dangerous.

Under Pence, ideology has replaced evidence in many areas of public life. In fact, Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump has just hired a running mate who, in the past year, has reallocated millions of dollars in public funds intended to provide food and health care for needy families to anti-choice crisis pregnancy centers.

Gov. Pence, who declined multiple requests for an interview with Rewire, has been outspoken about his anti-choice agenda. Currently, Indiana law requires people seeking abortions to receive in-person “counseling” and written information from a physician or other health-care provider 18 hours before the abortion begins. And thanks, in part, to other restrictive laws making it more difficult for clinics to operate, there are currently six abortion providers in Indiana, and none in the northern part of the state. Only four of Indiana’s 92 counties have an abortion provider. All this means that many people in need of abortion care are forced to take significant time off work, arrange child care, and possibly pay for a place to stay overnight in order to obtain it.

This environment is why a contract quietly signed by Pence last fall with the crisis pregnancy center umbrella organization Real Alternatives is so potentially dangerous for Indiana residents seeking abortion: State-subsidized crisis pregnancy centers not only don’t provide abortion but seek to persuade people out of seeking abortion, thus limiting their options.

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“Indiana is committed to the health, safety, and wellbeing [sic] of Hoosier families, women, and children,” reads the first line of the contract between the Indiana State Department of Health and Real Alternatives. The contract, which began on October 1, 2015, allocates $3.5 million over the course of a year for Real Alternatives to use to fund crisis pregnancy centers throughout the state.

Where Funding Comes From

The money for the Real Alternatives contract comes from Indiana’s Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) block grant, a federally funded, state-run program meant to support the most vulnerable households with children. The program was created by the 1996 Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act signed by former President Bill Clinton. It changed welfare from a federal program that gave money directly to needy families to one that gave money, and a lot of flexibility with how to use it, to the states.

This TANF block grant is supposed to provide low-income families a monthly cash stipend that can be used for rent, child care, and food. But states have wide discretion over these funds: In general, they must use the money to serve families with children, but they can also fund programs meant, for example, to promote marriage. They can also make changes to the requirements for fund eligibility.

As of 2012, to be eligible for cash assistance in Indiana, a household’s maximum monthly earnings could not exceed $377, the fourth-lowest level of qualification of all 50 states, according to a report by the Congressional Research Service. Indiana’s program also has some of the lowest maximum payouts to recipients in the country.

Part of this is due to a 2011 work requirement that stripped eligibility from many families. Under the new work requirement, a parent or caretaker receiving assistance needs to be “engaged in work once the State determines the parent or caretaker is ready to engage in work,” or after 24 months of receiving benefits. The maximum time allowed federally for a family to receive assistance is 60 months.

“There was a TANF policy change effective November 2011 that required an up-front job search to be completed at the point of application before we would proceed in authorizing TANF benefits,” Jim Gavin, a spokesman for the state’s Family and Social Services Administration (FSSA), told Rewire. “Most [applicants] did not complete the required job search and thus applications were denied.”

Unspent money from the block grant can be carried over to following years. Indiana receives an annual block grant of $206,799,109, but the state hasn’t been using all of it thanks to those low payouts and strict eligibility requirements. The budget for the Real Alternatives contract comes from these carry-over funds.

According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, TANF is explicitly meant to clothe and feed children, or to create programs that help prevent “non-marital childbearing,” and Indiana’s contract with Real Alternatives does neither. The contract stipulates that Real Alternatives and its subcontractors must “actively promote childbirth instead of abortion.” The funds, the contract says, cannot be used for organizations that will refer clients to abortion providers or promote contraceptives as a way to avoid unplanned pregnancies and sexually transmitted infections.

Parties involved in the contract defended it to Rewire by saying they provide material goods to expecting and new parents, but Rewire obtained documents that showed a much different reality.

Real Alternatives is an anti-choice organization run by Kevin Bagatta, a Pennsylvania lawyer who has no known professional experience with medical or mental health services. It helps open, finance, and refer clients to crisis pregnancy centers. The program started in Pennsylvania, where it received a $30 million, five-year grant to support a network of 40 subcontracting crisis pregnancy centers. Auditor General Eugene DePasquale called for an audit of the organization between June 2012 and June 2015 after hearing reports of mismanaged funds, and found $485,000 in inappropriate billing. According to the audit, Real Alternatives would not permit DHS to review how the organization used those funds. However, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported in April that at least some of the money appears to have been designated for programs outside the state.

Real Alternatives also received an $800,000 contract in Michigan, which inspired Gov. Pence to fund a $1 million yearlong pilot program in northern Indiana in the fall of 2014.

“The widespread success [of the pilot program] and large demand for these services led to the statewide expansion of the program,” reads the current $3.5 million contract. It is unclear what measures the state used to define “success.”

 

“Every Other Baby … Starts With Women’s Care Center”

Real Alternatives has 18 subcontracting centers in Indiana; 15 of them are owned by Women’s Care Center, a chain of crisis pregnancy centers. According to its website, Women’s Care Center serves 25,000 women annually in 23 centers throughout Florida, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio, and Wisconsin.

Women’s Care Centers in Indiana received 18 percent of their operating budget from state’s Real Alternatives program during the pilot year, October 1, 2014 through September 30, 2015, which were mostly reimbursements for counseling and classes throughout pregnancy, rather than goods and services for new parents.

In fact, instead of the dispensation of diapers and food, “the primary purpose of the [Real Alternatives] program is to provide core services consisting of information, sharing education, and counseling that promotes childbirth and assists pregnant women in their decision regarding adoption or parenting,” the most recent contract reads.

The program’s reimbursement system prioritizes these anti-choice classes and counseling sessions: The more they bill for, the more likely they are to get more funding and thus open more clinics.

“This performance driven [sic] reimbursement system rewards vendor service providers who take their program reimbursement and reinvest in their services by opening more centers and hiring more counselors to serve more women in need,” reads the contract.

Classes, which are billed as chastity classes, parenting classes, pregnancy classes, and childbirth classes, are reimbursed at $21.80 per client. Meanwhile, as per the most recent contract, counseling sessions, which are separate from the classes, are reimbursed by the state at minimum rates of $1.09 per minute.

Jenny Hunsberger, vice president of Women’s Care Center, told Rewire that half of all pregnant women in Elkhart, LaPorte, Marshall, and St. Joseph Counties, and one in four pregnant women in Allen County, are clients of their centers. To receive any material goods, such as diapers, food, and clothing, she said, all clients must receive this counseling, at no cost to them. Such counseling is billed by the minute for reimbursement.

“When every other baby born [in those counties] starts with Women’s Care Center, that’s a lot of minutes,” Hunsberger told Rewire.

Rewire was unable to verify exactly what is said in those counseling sessions, except that they are meant to encourage clients to carry their pregnancies to term and to help them decide between adoption or child rearing, according to Hunsberger. As mandated by the contract, both counseling and classes must “provide abstinence education as the best and only method of avoiding unplanned pregnancies and sexually transmitted infections.”

In the first quarter of the new contract alone, Women’s Care Center billed Real Alternatives and, in turn, the state, $239,290.97; about $150,000 of that was for counseling, according to documents obtained by Rewire. In contrast, goods like food, diapers, and other essentials for new parents made up only about 18.5 percent of Women’s Care Center’s first-quarter reimbursements.

Despite the fact that the state is paying for counseling at Women’s Care Center, Rewire was unable to find any licensing for counselors affiliated with the centers. Hunsberger told Rewire that counseling assistants and counselors complete a minimum training of 200 hours overseen by a master’s level counselor, but the counselors and assistants do not all have social work or psychology degrees. Hunsberger wrote in an email to Rewire that “a typical Women’s Care Center is staffed with one or more highly skilled counselors, MSW or equivalent.”

Rewire followed up for more information regarding what “typical” or “equivalent” meant, but Hunsberger declined to answer. A search for licenses for the known counselors at Women’s Care Center’s Indiana locations turned up nothing. The Indiana State Department of Health told Rewire that it does not monitor or regulate the staff at Real Alternatives’ subcontractors, and both Women’s Care Center and Real Alternatives were uncooperative when asked for more information regarding their counseling staff and training.

Bethany Christian Services and Heartline Pregnancy Center, Real Alternatives’ other Indiana subcontractors, billed the program $380.41 and $404.39 respectively in the first quarter. They billed only for counseling sessions, and not goods or classes.

In a 2011 interview with Philadelphia City Paper, Kevin Bagatta said that Real Alternatives counselors were not required to have a degree.

“We don’t provide medical services. We provide human services,” Bagatta told the City Paper.

There are pregnancy centers in Indiana that provide a full range of referrals for reproductive health care, including for STI testing and abortion. However, they are not eligible for reimbursement under the Real Alternatives contract because they do not maintain an anti-choice mission.

Parker Dockray is the executive director of Backline, an all-options pregnancy resource center. She told Rewire that Backline serves hundreds of Indiana residents each month, and is overwhelmed by demand for diapers and other goods, but it is ineligible for the funding because it will refer women to abortion providers if they choose not to carry a pregnancy to term.

“At a time when so many Hoosier families are struggling to make ends meet, it is irresponsible for the state to divert funds intended to support low-income women and children and give it to organizations that provide biased pregnancy counseling,” Dockray told Rewire. “We wish that Indiana would use this funding to truly support families by providing job training, child care, and other safety net services, rather than using it to promote an anti-abortion agenda.”

“Life Is Winning in Indiana”

Time and again, Bagatta and Hunsberger stressed to Rewire that their organizations do not employ deceitful tactics to get women in the door and to convince them not to have abortions. However, multiple studies have proven that crisis pregnancy centers often lie to women from the moment they search online for an abortion provider through the end of their appointments inside the center.

These studies have also shown that publicly funded crisis pregnancy centers dispense medically inaccurate information to clients. In addition to spreading lies like abortion causing infertility or breast cancer, they are known to give false hopes of miscarriages to people who are pregnant and don’t want to be. A 2015 report by NARAL Pro-Choice America found this practice to be ubiquitous in centers throughout the United States, and Rewire found that Women’s Care Center is no exception. The organization’s website says that as many as 40 percent of pregnancies end in natural miscarriage. While early pregnancy loss is common, it occurs in about 10 percent of known pregnancies, according to the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.

Crisis pregnancy centers also tend to crop up next to abortion clinics with flashy, deceitful signs that lead many to mistakenly walk into the wrong building. Once inside, clients are encouraged not to have an abortion.

A Google search for “abortion” and “Indianapolis” turns up an ad for the Women’s Care Center as the first result. It reads: “Abortion – Indianapolis – Free Ultrasound before Abortion. Located on 86th and Georgetown. We’re Here to Help – Call Us Today: Abortion, Ultrasound, Locations, Pregnancy.”

Hunsberger denies any deceit on the part of Women’s Care Center.

“Clients who walk in the wrong door are informed that we are not the abortion clinic and that we do not provide abortions,” Hunsberger told Rewire. “Often a woman will choose to stay or return because we provide services that she feels will help her make the best decision for her, including free medical-grade pregnancy tests and ultrasounds which help determine viability and gestational age.”

Planned Parenthood of Indiana and Kentucky told Rewire that since Women’s Care Center opened on 86th and Georgetown in Indianapolis, many patients looking for its Georgetown Health Center have walked through the “wrong door.”

“We have had patients miss appointments because they went into their building and were kept there so long they missed their scheduled time,” Judi Morrison, vice president of marketing and education, told Rewire.

Sarah Bardol, director of Women’s Care Center’s Indianapolis clinic, told the Criterion Online Edition, a publication of the Archdiocese of Indianapolis, that the first day the center was open, a woman and her boyfriend did walk into the “wrong door” hoping to have an abortion.

“The staff of the new Women’s Care Center in Indianapolis, located just yards from the largest abortion provider in the state, hopes for many such ‘wrong-door’ incidents as they seek to help women choose life for their unborn babies,” reported the Criterion Online Edition.

If they submit to counseling, Hoosiers who walk into the “wrong door” and “choose life” can receive up to about $40 in goods over the course their pregnancy and the first year of that child’s life. Perhaps several years ago they may have been eligible for Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, but now with the work requirement, they may not qualify.

In a February 2016 interview with National Right to Life, one of the nation’s most prominent anti-choice groups, Gov. Pence said, “Life is winning in Indiana.” Though Pence was referring to the Real Alternatives contract, and the wave of anti-choice legislation sweeping through the state, it’s not clear what “life is winning” actually means. The state’s opioid epidemic claimed 1,172 lives in 2014, a statistically significant increase from the previous year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. HIV infections have spread dramatically throughout the state, in part because of Pence’s unwillingness to support medically sound prevention practices. Indiana’s infant mortality rate is above the national average, and infant mortality among Black babies is even higher. And Pence has reduced access to prevention services such as those offered by Planned Parenthood through budget cuts and unnecessary regulations—while increasing spending on anti-choice crisis pregnancy centers.

Gov. Pence’s track record shows that these policies are no mistake. The medical and financial needs of his most vulnerable constituents have taken a backseat to religious ideology throughout his time in office. He has literally reallocated money for poor Hoosiers to fund anti-choice organizations. In his tenure as both a congressman and a governor, he’s proven that whether on a national or state level, he’s willing to put “pro-life” over quality-of-life for his constituents.