Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal (R) signed a bill Tuesday that provides $2 million in state funding for anti-choice crisis pregnancy centers (CPCs), reported the Associated Press.
SB 308, sponsored by state Sen. Renee Unterman (R-Buford), would establish a program through the Georgia Department of Public Health that will provide grants to organizations “whose mission and practice is to provide alternatives to abortion services to medically indigent women at no cost.”
Deal signed the bill alongside anti-choice activists and lawmakers in a private ceremony and made no public statement, with the exception of a short Twitter post.
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The grants, which will be awarded annually to CPCs, are prohibited from funding services that “perform, promote, or act as a referral for an abortion.”
To qualify for the grant, a CPC must provide pregnancy tests, counseling for pregnant people experiencing unplanned pregnancies, and “confidential and free pregnancy support services.”
The state legislature this year passed a budget that provided $2 million in initial funding for the state’s CPCs, which are often staffed by anti-choice activists dressed in lab coats. CPC grants can’t “exceed 85 percent of the annual revenue for the prior year of any provider,” according to the legislation.
A California investigation released last year showed that 91 percent of centers visited by investigators gave out misinformation about the effects of abortion care on a person’s physical and mental health. CPC workers quoted in the investigation charged that having an abortion would increase the risk of breast cancer, infertility, miscarriage, and/or depression that results in suicide—all of which has been debunked.
Unterman described the legislation as a “positive” response to allegations made by the anti-choice front group known as the Center for Medical Progress (CMP), which began publishing deceptively edited and surreptitiously recorded videos in 2015. CMP’s smear campaign, in coordination with Republican legislators, charged that Planned Parenthood violated laws governing the sale of fetal tissue.
The Georgia Department of Public Health investigated Planned Parenthood Southeast and four other abortion providers in the state. Officials found that the health-care organization did not violate any laws related to fetal tissue donation.
Emily Matson, executive director of Georgia Life Alliance, said in a statement that the new grant program will help expand nonprofit CPCs in the state.
There are about 70 CPCs in the state that could apply for the grants, Matson said. The state health department lists 50 organizations, provided to the department by the Georgia Life Alliance, that provide free ultrasounds for pregnant people.
Elizabeth Nash, a policy analyst at the Guttmacher Institute, told the Associated Press that providing financial support for anti-choice activists who run CPCs is nothing new for GOP-controlled state legislatures.
“The state should be ensuring women are getting the best, most accurate and relevant information,” Nash said. She added that the Republican-backed measure “allows state funds to go to organizations providing women with incomplete information or outright misinformation.”