Republican lawmakers in Missouri are poised to increase tax breaks for people or businesses that donate to so-called crisis pregnancy centers, fake clinics that deploy anti-choice propaganda to discourage people from seeking abortion care.
Missouri is one of 14 states that funnel millions of taxpayer dollars to fake clinics. Lawmakers have advanced an appropriations bill that will continue to provide more than $6.3 million in state and federal funding to anti-choice organizations through the state’s Alternatives to Abortion Program. Missouri is one of the states that gives government funds and tax breaks to fake clinics in the midst of budget crises.
Alison Dreith, executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Missouri, told Rewire.News that it was “disingenuous at best” for state lawmakers to increase tax credits and provide funding for fake clinics while the state is facing a budget crisis.
HB 1288, sponsored by state Rep. Kevin Engler (R-Farmington), would reauthorize and expand tax credits for donations to maternity homes and fake clinics. The bill would increase the size of the tax credit for fake clinics from $2.5 million to $3.5 million a year.
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The proposal would increase the tax credit for maternity homes, organizations often associated with religiously affiliated groups that provide temporary housing for pregnant people, from $2.5 million to $3.5 million. The tax credits are set to expire on December 31, 2019; the bill would extend the tax credits until December 31, 2024.
Missouri lawmakers in 2015 approved legislation that significantly restricted access to public assistance for families with low incomes. Lawmakers in 2016 approved a plan to remove recipients deemed ineligible to receive public assistance. There has been a precipitous reduction in the number of residents receiving public assistance since the implementation of those policies.
“Amidst this public health crisis, it’s wrong that some politicians are diverting money intended to help needy families in order to wage an ideological fight over abortion,” Dreith said. “Those aren’t the priorities of hardworking Missouri families.”
There were $2.4 million in tax credits claimed for donations to fake clinics during the 2017 fiscal year, and $7.2 million in tax credits claimed for donations to fake clinics from 2015 to 2017. If implemented, the increased tax credits could reduce tax revenue collected by the state by $4.5 million during the 2020 and 2021 fiscal years, according to an analysis of the bill by the Missouri Committee on Legislative Research.
The Republican majority in the state house approved the bill on February 27 with a 121-27 vote. The bill now awaits final approval by the GOP-controlled state senate, which has approved a similar version of the bill with a 28-3 vote.
The Republican-controlled state house last week passed an appropriations bill for the Department of Social Services that included $6.3 million in funding for the Alternatives to Abortion Program, which funnels state taxpayer dollars to fake clinics.
The state redirects $4.3 million in federal funding for the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program, which is intended to provide financial assistance and programs for low-income families.
Dreith said state lawmakers are “literally taking food out of the mouths of hungry children” to further an ideological agenda.
“No matter what our beliefs about abortion are, we can all agree that federal food assistance money should help feed hungry kids, not fund an ideological agenda,” Dreith said.