Enterprise-Record (Chico)

US states focus on funding in abortion debate

- By John Hanna and Geoff Mulvihill

LAWRENCE, KAN. >> Though the Insight Women's Center sits at the epicenter of a reinvigora­ted battle in the nation's culture wars, the only hint of its faith-based mission to dissuade people from getting abortions is the jazzy, piano rendition of “Jesus Loves Me” playing in a waiting room.

The Republican-controlled Kansas Legislatur­e is considerin­g allocating millions of dollars in state funds to similar anti-abortion centers that persuade people to bring their pregnancie­s to term by offering free pregnancy tests and sonograms, as well as counseling and parenting classes taught by volunteers. They're also considerin­g offering millions more in income tax credits for donors supporting what they call “crisis pregnancy centers.”

When the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade last year and gave control of abortion policy to the states, it led to bans and restrictio­ns in some states, and executive orders and laws protecting access in others. Those debates continue, but perhaps less noticed is how this change refueled the renewed battle over taxpayer money.

Supporters say the effort shows abortion opponents are addressing families' social and financial needs. But critics say the amount of new funding proposed for organizati­ons like Insight — either in direct funding or tax credits for their donors — fall far short of what's necessary to improve people's access to health care and address ongoing poverty.

“You funnel money through a short-term solution that makes it appear as though you are doing something,” said Alesha Doan, a University of Kansas associate professor who has studied and written books about abortion politics.

Increasing­ly, liberal cities and states are funding access to abortion, including telemedici­ne, which has seen a notable rise with more than half of U.S. abortions now done with pills rather than surgery. Meanwhile, states with GOP legislatur­es and governors are looking to put more taxpayer money into organizati­ons that talk people out of ending their pregnancie­s.

Legislativ­e committees held hearings Thursday on proposals for a 70% income tax credit to donors who support anti-abortion centers, with a cap of $10 million in total credits. A Senate committee might vote this week.

It's similar to a longstandi­ng Missouri law that provides income tax credits to donors supporting antiaborti­on centers. Arizona has such a law, and Mississipp­i's Republican House speaker is trying to expand a cap on tax credits to $10 million from the $3.5 million authorized last year.

Arkansas and Oklahoma are considerin­g adding similar tax credits, according to the National Right to Life Committee.

In Missouri, donors to anti-abortion centers have received $15 million in total state tax credits over the past five years, and one state analysis estimates the centers served about 43,000 people last year.

Abortion opponents have operated centers like Insight for decades, and the practice of conservati­ve-led states offering financial aid to them predates Dobbs — the decision in June overturnin­g Roe v. Wade.

On the abortion-rights side, Oregon lawmakers last year created a $15 million abortion-access fund, with the first $1 million going to a nonprofit that covers the costs of patients' travel and procedures. California, Connecticu­t, New Jersey, New York and Washington have also allocated or are considerin­g offering public funding for abortions or related services.

In New Mexico last year, Democratic Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham pledged $10 million in state funds to the constructi­on of a new abortion clinic.

Morgan Hopkins, president of the abortionri­ghts advocacy group All(asterisk) Above All praised the funding. “Budgets are a reflection of our values,” she said.

Kansas already provides grants to programs that provide prenatal care, and encourage people to carry their pregnancie­s to term. But it spends less than $339,000 in a state budget of $24 billion on the program — and made only two grants totaling less than $74,000 to anti-abortion centers.

Now, some abortion opponents talk about emulating Missouri's more than $8 million annual funding, plus the income tax credits.

Abortion rights supporters are frustrated that the push for such support is coming so soon after an Aug. 2 statewide vote that decisively rejected a proposed amendment to the Kansas Constituti­on that would have allowed legislator­s to greatly restrict or ban abortion.

“I have general concerns that we're not respecting what was the very clear will of voters,” said state Sen. Ethan Corson, a Kansas City-area Democrat who serves on the Senate tax committee.

Abortion rights advocates say the centers lure patients away from abortion clinics with free services, give them inaccurate medical informatio­n and counseling from people who are not trained therapists. Some see funding them as a political gesture designed to make abortion bans look less harsh.

Abortion opponents argue that centers like Insight offer patients a wide range of prenatal and postbirth classes, in addition to other help. They also argue that boosting funding for free services after the August vote is a promise not to abandon parents and families.

 ?? CHARLIE RIEDEL — THE ASSOCIATED PRESS FILE ?? Abortion-rights advocates gather outside a the Kansas Statehouse to protest the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling on abortion, on June 24in Topeka, Kan.
CHARLIE RIEDEL — THE ASSOCIATED PRESS FILE Abortion-rights advocates gather outside a the Kansas Statehouse to protest the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling on abortion, on June 24in Topeka, Kan.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from United States