Kansans for Life uses false assumptions and "data" to make false claims about the role of its "right-to-know" website in a decline in the number of abortions in the state, shifts that are most attributable to the assassination of Dr. George Tiller, restrictions on abortion care, and national trends.
The need to remain relevant is necessary within any business, including the faux-life business. Conveying relevancy is key for fundraising successes and in the pursuit of future faux-life legislative endeavors. Proving one’s relevancy often requires conveying past successes by showing proven outcomes of an organization’s programs and policies. Numerically and analytically quantifying one’s work is part of the professional world, but in the faux-life world, there is a systemic and pervasive disregard for truth and standard measures of accountability. Faux-lifers can be predictably and reliably counted upon for one thing… their misuse and misinterpretation of science, data, fact, and statistics.
That’s why I am so, so, so… just NOT at all surprised by the most recent set of “facts” being used by Kansans for Life to quantify the “success” of their “Women’s Right to Know” (WRTK) website. Yes, they are purporting that the abortion rate has lowered due to this Internet wonder. They are so proud that they have drafted press releases touting its success in both March and April of this year. They excitedly peddled its false accomplishments when they testified in support of the 2011 mega abortion bill, touting it as a reason to lie to women about a non-existent and dis-proven abortion/breast cancer link.
So according to the logic of Kansans for Life, you too can reduce the number of abortions today! Just click HERE and watch those fetal beings come to fruition!
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A friend of mine was running for Kansas State Senate during the last election cycle. She had plans to participate in a faux-life candidate forum. As a bright, articulate and passionate pro-choice candidate, she was confident that she had nothing to hide. She felt assured that she could easily defend her personal beliefs and make the case for her positioning on policy effecting women’s health and welfare. Having some past experience talking with and dealing with “the other side,” I gave her the following advice regarding preparation for the forum.
“You should expect to have all of your facts challenged with their “facts.” They will throw out lots of numbers, lots of false statistics. They will, quite literally try to overwhelm you with manufactured numbers. So anything you might present as fact, be prepared with back up for that positioning. They will pounce on any flat, unsupported statements. Like if you were to say that abortion is safer than childbirth, you should have that statistic and the source of that statistic. If you want to talk about contraception preventing pregnancy, have your research ready about how greater access to contraception has been linked to lower pregnancy rates. Although, they thinkcontraception is abortion...so, also be prepared with how contraception and EC really works and explain how that medically differs from pregnancy. I would study their myths and be ready to debunk them…abortion causes breast cancer and depression…they truly believe that stuff and have lots of fake science to “back it up.”
Ultimately, the truthful reply to my friend would have been, “nothing that you will say to these folks in such a forum, hosted by faux-lifers, will matter.” They engage in a whole, unique, false, and misleading use of statistics and logic. That’s why those who are active pro-choice warriors, our she-ros and heroes who participate in clinic defense, know that debating with self-proclaimed “sidewalk counselors” is futile. That’s also why I brought a rubber stamp to a committee hearing earlier this year. The truth is irrelevant to faux-lifers, whether they are holding manufactured bloody fetus signs on the street or whether they are positioned with a fancy nameplate behind a committee room conference table… facts just don’t matter.
Kansans for Life isn’t afraid to crow about their WRTK “accomplishment,” no…they are busy marketing this high-techy “baby-saving” gem of a website to their faux-life friends in Nebraska. Now Nebraska Right to Life can feed this prettily packaged waste of “abortion reducing” Internet space to their state legislature.
Let’s look at this “proof” that Kansans for Life is so happily sharing with its red state neighbor to the north.
The Women’s Right to Know and See Act was passed by the Kansas Legislature in 2009. It included lots of factoids that they figured pregnant women-folk should most likely be told if they find themselves seeking an abortion. As a bonus, the faux-life groups were able to mandate that a “state health department website with real-time sonography of the developing child (!)”be set up. That web address is included in the WRTK materials that are handed out to women at the start of their 24-hour waiting period required for a pregnancy termination in Kansas. Of course the sonography video isn’t of “the developing child” so much as “a developing child”, but what the heck….it’s a cute little fetus and you should love it and pet it and cuddle it, okay?
From Kansans for Life’s most recent blog post…
In 2008 (before the website), 10,642 pregnant women entered Kansas abortion clinics, in 2009, 9,701 did so, in 2010, 8,615, and in 2011, 8,033. Thus, nearly 2,700 women never stepped inside a Kansas abortion business, due to their access to a state informed consent website!
So, while we are pleased that a few hundred women each year do reject abortion upon reflection AFTER entering Kansas clinics, the number choosing life has greatly increased with the online website.
Kansans for Life is claiming that the number of abortions in Kansas was reduced by 25 percent due to the WRTK website! There is not a wit of direct correlation or causation to be found in that statement and yet, they are feeding this obtuse logic to their faux-life compatriots in Nebraska. Like any good piece of faux-life legislation, it will come at a cost to the state. From the fiscal note from Kansas’ House Substitute for SB 238….
In the fiscal note for the bill as introduced, KDHE (Kansas Department of Health and Environment) estimates additional expenditures totaling $182,637 from the State General Fund in FY 2010. Of this amount, $34,500 would be for postage costs to mail 5,000 DVDs and reprinted Women’s Right to Know materials; $15,137 would be used to reprint the materials; and, $133,000 would be for professional service expenses related to video production. The agency also estimates that $6,500 in out-year postage costs would be needed. This estimate assumes that 1,000 DVDs would be mailed in FY 2011 and FY 2012.
Now lets go back to those statistics, Kansans for Life gives the WRTK website credit in its “abortion-rejecting” figures the decline in abortions from 2008 to 2009 and then from 2009 to 2010. Dr. George Tiller was assassinated in his church on May 31, 2009. Dr. Tiller’s clinic, Women’s Health Care Services, was one of the few clinics in the nation offering terminations of later term pregnancies. In fact, Dr. Tiller saw international patients in his Wichita clinic. The interruption of his medical work, due to his murder, would likely greatly contribute to the decline in Kansas abortions taking place from 2008 to 2009 and then again from 2009 to 2010.
The enactment of a greater number of restrictions in Kansas, a lower abortion rate nationwide, President Obama’s elimination of federal funding for abstinence education programs (although the President recently reversed this in the 2012 budget)… are all much more likely to have made a far greater difference in a lower number of abortions in Kansas than some cyber-fetus imagery on a website. Just another day in the life of the faux-life spin machine, disseminating lies and false misrepresentations in their quest to eliminate freedom of choice for women… one red state at a time.
Daleiden’s claims about the videos’ impact on Planned Parenthood contrast with a recent poll showing that support for Planned Parenthood has increased in the aftermath of the Center for Medical Progress' anti-choice smear videos.
David Daleiden, a year after he began releasing secretly recorded and deceptively edited videos claiming to show Planned Parenthood officials were illegally profiting from fetal tissue donation, appeared to boast about the videos’ purported impact at a luncheon during the Republican National Convention (RNC).
“I think it’s very clear that one year later, Planned Parenthood is on the brink, they’re on the precipice,” Daleiden said at the event, co-hosted by the Family Research Council Action and the Susan B. Anthony List. “Their client numbers are down by at least 10 percent, their abortion numbers are down, their revenues are down and their clinics are closing.”
The luncheon took place at the Hyde Park Prime Steakhouse, near the Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland, Ohio, where the Republican National Convention is underway. Also in attendance at Wednesday’s luncheon were a slate of Republican anti-choice politicians, including Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant, Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback, former Texas Gov. Rick Perry, Nebraska Sen. Deb Fischer, and North Carolina Rep. Virginia Foxx.
Daleiden—who is under felony indictment in Texas and the subject of lawsuits in California for his actions in filming the undercover videos—touted efforts to defund Planned Parenthood by state Republican legislators and governors, who used the Center for Medical Progress (CMP) smear videos as a basis for investigations. Those defunding attempts have been blocked by federal court order in several cases.
He celebrated Planned Parenthood’s announcement that it would close two and consolidate four health centers in Indiana, an effort Planned Parenthood of Indiana and Kentucky said would “allow patients to receive affordable, quality health care with extended hours at the newly consolidated locations.” Daleiden made no mention of last month’s Supreme Court decision overturning abortion restrictions in Texas, which dealt the anti-choice movement its worst legal defeat in decades.
“One year ago now, from the release of those videos, I think it’s actually safe to say that Planned Parenthood has never been more on the defensive in their entire 100 years of history, and the pro-life movement has never been stronger,” Daleiden said.
While his tone was victorious, Daleiden appeared to avoid directly claiming credit for the supposed harm done to Planned Parenthood. In a federal racketeering lawsuit brought against Daleiden and his co-defendants, Planned Parenthood has argued that Daleiden should compensate the organization for the harm that his smear campaign caused.
Republican congressional lawmakers have held at least five hearings and as many defunding votes against Planned Parenthood in the year since the videos’ release. Not a single state or federal investigation has produced evidence of wrongdoing.
Daleiden’s claims about the videos’ impact on Planned Parenthood contrast with a recent NBC/Wall Street Journalpoll showing that support for Planned Parenthood has increased in the aftermath of the CMP smear videos.
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-Gazettereported 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.
“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.