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Commentary Abortion

Michigan Governor Says No to More Taxpayer Funds for Anti-Choice Clinics

Cayley Winters

Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D) threw a wrench into Republicans' plans to funnel state funding to clinics that lie to pregnant people and don't provide a full range of reproductive health services.

Michigan’s reproductive rights powerhouse Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D) recently smacked down $700,000 in state funding for a group with a long history of misspending taxpayer dollars and deceiving pregnant people.

Whitmer, who won the governorship in 2018, last week used her line-item veto power to prevent Pennsylvania-based Real Alternatives from receiving more state dollars while failing to meet the promised metrics for success and promoting an anti-choice agenda.

Funding for Real Alternatives should have never made it into the Michigan budget, much less to our governor’s desk. The idea of increasing what the state was giving the anti-choice group is an insult to me as a woman, a taxpayer, and a person capable of reading a simple balance sheet. But given the absurdist theater of state politics of the past few years, I’m not the least bit surprised.

Months after Whitmer proposed her budget, Republican lawmakers tried to corner her by taking a summer vacation and giving her mere days to prevent a government shutdown. It wasn’t fair, and it wasn’t right. But what do you expect from GOP officials with a history of taking money away from needy families and children?

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Real Alternatives has been proven to misuse money intended to serve vulnerable households with newborn children. They grew their own executives’ paychecks, missed yearly goals they promised to fulfill for the Michigan Pregnancy and Parenting Support Program, and funded anti-choice crisis pregnancy centers that lie to and manipulate people who seek abortion care.

We’ve known Whitmer is a powerful ally for reproductive rights. As a state senator and a representative, she was no stranger to the uphill battle against nonsense anti-abortion legislation. She fought back against attacks on later abortion care in 2008, and tried to fend off so-called rape insurance in 2014, although—unfortunately—both eventually passed with Republican support.

But it shouldn’t take an effective ally to see through Real Alternatives’ charade. Real Alternatives is just one piece of the growing anti-abortion movement in Michigan and across the country.

Since the spring, anti-choice groups Michigan Values Life (backed by Right to Life Michigan) and the Michigan Heartbeat Coalition have launched two ballot initiatives to make second-trimester abortions inaccessible and criminalize abortion at six weeks’ gestation, respectively.

But even without those ballot initiatives, abortion care is barely accessible for Michiganders. From Detroit to Kalamazoo, people have to wait for available appointments at clinics, pay for abortion out of pocket unless they purchase an additional insurance rider, and plan around a 24-hour forced waiting period to obtain an abortion.

And while legislators are trying to pay Real Alternatives to fund fake programs, our Planned Parenthood affiliates are under financial stress after a Trump administration policy forced the organization to reject federal family planning funding in order to keep providing abortion services.

When we find the small victories in the long list of battles pro-choice advocates face here in Michigan, we’ll take them.

If not for Whitmer’s strong pro-choice leadership, Republicans would’ve handed over the money to Real Alternatives. This would have been one more win for the right’s nationally coordinated attack on reproductive freedom in the United States.

Everyone knows abortion restrictions are not about protection or medical necessity—bad-faith arguments put forth by anti-choice Republicans. Making abortion illegal or inaccessible is a way for conservatives to oppress and punish people who seek necessary health care.

Funding groups like Real Alternatives is about taking money away from those who need it. Even without mentioning the word, “abortion,” funneling taxpayer money into Real Alternatives was a direct attack on abortion rights.

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