When Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) delivered his state of the state address in January, he also released a budget proposal that significantly increased funding for a state program that directs money to anti-choice crisis pregnancy centers, or fake clinics.
Texas Right to Life, the state’s most prominent and well-funded anti-choice lobby, reportedly collaborated this month with GOP members of the Texas House to funnel millions to fake clinics through the “Alternatives to Abortion” (A2A) program, diverting funds for families with low incomes along the way. With the two-year budget passed April 7, the A2A program is now set to receive even more state funding than Abbott proposed, while critics accuse the program of funding organizations that use deceptive and manipulative practices to further a religious and ideological agenda.
Heather Busby, executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Texas, said in a statement that it was “unconscionable” for Republican legislators to increase funding to organizations that do not provide comprehensive reproductive health care.
“It is shameful that the state continues to give millions of health care dollars to non-medical entities that lie to, shame and manipulate Texans considering an abortion, especially at a time when vulnerable children are dying in foster care, public education remains chronically underfunded and cuts to Medicaid for disabled kids remain in place,” Busby said.
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The A2A program is administered by the state’s health and human services commission through the Texas Pregnancy Care Network (TPCN), a non-profit that distributes funds to more than 40 subcontractors the network selects and oversees.
TPCN network guidelines require that subcontractors not “promote, refer, or provide abortions or abortifacient contraceptives to clients.” Nearly 100 facilities statewide are affiliated with TPCN, including social service organizations, maternity homes, and fake clinics.
A Rewire investigation found TPCN funneled $2 million in state money to fake clinics in 2015. Most of the funding was not used for concrete assistance or services.
Texas lawmakers during the 2015 legislative session passed a budget that directed $18.3 million in state funding to the A2A program for the 2016-2017 cycle. The state diverted $6 million in federal funds from the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) to fund A2A over that time period.
Prior to the April 6 house floor debate, Texas Right to Life officials said that “insufficient funds limit the program,” claiming that A2A has a “waiting list of qualified providers wishing to enter the program.”
Reps. Matt Krause (R-Fort Worth), Mike Lang (R-Granbury), Mike Schofield (R-Katy), and Matt Shaheen (R-Plano) each submitted amendments to dramatically increase funding for the A2A program in the 2018-2019 budget.
The house took up Schofield’s amendment, which proposed an increase in funding to A2A by $16.7 million over two years, and would have diverted funds from the Comptroller’s Department, the Parks and Wildlife Department, and the Department of Agriculture. Krause put forward an amendment to Schofield’s amendment, which increased funding for A2A to $20 million over two years, sacrificing the entirety of the funds from the Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) for the Air Quality Assessment program.
Rep. Eddie Lucio III (D-Brownsville) during the floor debate questioned why state funds should be diverted away from TCEQ. He asked Krause if he knew how much funding A2A had requested, and Krause replied that he did not, reported The Texas Observer.
“Then how do you know you’re not giving them money they don’t even need?” Lucio asked.
The house passed the amendment by a 93-52 vote along party lines, with Rep. Sarah Davis (R-West University Place) joining Democrats in voting against the amendment.
Republican lawmakers, at the behest of Texas Right to Life, appear to be giving money to A2A that was never requested. The health and human services commission only sought appropriations to maintain the program’s annual $9.15 million budget, according to the agency’s budget request.
The budget request shows that the number of people who received services through the A2A program dropped from 27,099 in 2015 to 22,408 in 2016.
“Texas Right to Life worked closely with Pro-Life champions like Representatives Matt Krause, Mike Lang, Mike Schofield, and Matt Shaheen to increase the funding on the floor,” John Seago, legislative director for Texas Right to Life, wrote after the budget passed.
Krause, Lang, and Shaheen each received $2,500 in campaign contributions during the most recent reporting cycle from the Texas Right to Life’s political action committee (PAC). Schofield received a campaign contribution of $500 from the Texas Right to Life PAC.
The budget is now headed for conference committee, where lawmakers from by the state senate and the house will work to reconcile differences in the chambers’ budgets. If the amendment is not changed, the A2A program will receive $38.3 million over the next two years—more than doubling the program’s funding.
Nan Little Kirkpatrick, executive director of the Texas Equal Access Fund, said in a statement that GOP lawmakers were “doubling down on a program that has proven to be ineffective” while refusing to fund programs that provide reproductive health care to Texans with low incomes.
“By increasing funding for the Alternatives to Abortion program, the state is attempting to control peoples’ reproductive lives and futures, in part by economically coercing low-income people into not seeking abortion,” Kirkpatrick said.