Georgia is funneling millions in state funds to anti-choice organizations that attempt to prevent people from seeking abortion care. The state this week awarded a $3 million contract to an organization that will distribute grants to so-called crisis pregnancy centers (CPCs), commonly called fake clinics.
Democratic lawmakers and reproductive rights advocates criticized the program for funding fake clinics that provide false and misleading information to pregnant people while the state faces significant public health problems.
Rep. Park Cannon (D-Atlanta) told Rewire in an email that it was “unacceptable” for taxpayer money to be directed to anti-choice organizations where volunteers and staff with no medical training attempt to dissuade pregnant people from seeking abortion care.
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“This measure does not have guidelines that licensed medical practitioners must be on staff to perform medical services,” Cannon said. “There are even CPCs who have unlicensed individuals wear white coats to give the illusion they are medical professionals.”
Gov. Nathan Deal (R) in April 2016 signed a bill establishing a grant program through the Department pf Public Health for fake clinics to promote pregnancy and parenting services as alternatives to abortion care.
The law prohibits the organizations from using grant funds to refer clients to clinics that provide abortions or to counsel pregnant people to receive abortion care unless their pregnancies are life threatening.
The governor on May 9 signed a bill giving the contracted organization more discretion in handing out the grants.
There are about 70 “pregnancy assistance organizations” in Georgia that may qualify for grant money, according to Georgia Life Alliance. The state health department lists 50 organizations, provided to the department by Georgia Life Alliance in 2015, that offer free ultrasounds for pregnant people.
Camila Wright Zolfaghari, executive director of Georgia Life Alliance, said in a statement that the organization’s leadership worked with lawmakers, state agencies, and other organizations to implement the program.
“Georgia Life Alliance is committed to the idea that all life has value and deserves to be supported and celebrated: born and unborn, urban and rural, planned and unplanned, mother and child,” Zolfaghari said.
Georgia Life Alliance is affiliated with the National Right to Life Committee, an organization that promotes anti-choice copycat bills through its state affiliates.
Christina Middleton, executive director of Life Resources of Georgia, said in a statement that the grants will increase the standard of care offered to women and children.
“Life Resources of Georgia looks forward to working hand in hand with the Department of Public Health to ensure that pregnant women and young mothers in our state have the excellent care that they need,” said Christina Middleton, executive director of Life Resources of Georgia, in a statement.
In addition to her role with Life Resources of Georgia, Middleton serves as the executive director of Caring Solutions Pregnancy Centers, one of the organizations that could qualify for grant funds.
Cannon told Rewire she has concerns about the lack of oversight for organizations that may be receiving grants through the program.
“This lack of medical expertise is dangerous for the women that depend on trusted information from these CPCs and may not know where else to go. Families are truly being misled,” Cannon said. “All CPCs need uniform patient privacy protections to confirm that they are servicing patients with medical professionals.”