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More State Money Flows to Christian Pregnancy Ministries

Six years after Roe v. Wade, Francis Schaeffer and C. Everett Koop’s book and film Whatever Happened to the Human Race? galvanized evangelicals to declare abortion their No.1 social and political issue.

Since then, evangelicals have used two main strategies to reduce the number of abortions: legislation that restricts access to abortion; and ministries—including pregnancy centers—that give women viable alternatives to abortion by providing the resources and support they need.

Schaeffer and Koop would likely be shocked by the growing levels of support for both strategies today. The Supreme Court is revisiting Roe and the access to abortion it provided.

And in Texas, the same legislature that outlawed abortion will invest $100 million of tax payer dollars in abortion-alternatives programs over the next two years, according to the Associated Press.

AP tracked spending in a dozen states and found that $89 million was allocated for Christian crisis pregnancy centers that offer a limited menu of free medical services and counsel clients against having abortions. That spending was up from $17 million a decade ago.

AP reported that the clinics offer “free but limited services” and “generally are not licensed as medical facilities,” which “raised questions about whether it’s appropriate to funnel so much tax money their way.”

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MinistryWatch reached out to Care Net to see if any of its 1,100 affiliated pregnancy centers receive government funding and if funding is increasing. Care Net was founded as Christian Action Council in 1975 by theologian Harold O. J. Brown, who had been inspired by Schaeffer and Koop. The ministry did not respond.

While many Americans may have some awareness of legislation or court cases, few know much about the role Christian pregnancy centers have played in reducing abortions in recent decades. Care Net’s website says it has saved 823,000 babies from abortion since 2008.

We also reached out to Save the Storks, which operates 67 roving Stork Buses that provide medical services in 27 states and seeks to “change the language and conversation around pro-life.” CEO Diane Ferraro was happy to share the story of hope and empowerment Storks puts front-and-center.

She confirmed the AP’s report of growing state funding for pregnancy centers in some states. But she said the article recycled misconceptions about levels of care and licensing.

“The article did not do justice to the growing level of medical sophistication that many pregnancy ministries now provide, or the large number of clinics that are licensed,” she said.

Stork Buses are fully licensed and packed with medical equipment to perform pregnancy tests, tests for sexually transmitted diseases, and ultrasound tests that allows a woman to see her unborn child moving in the womb. 

Ferraro said Save the Stork, which raised $9.1 million in 2020, does not currently seek government funding for its work. The $428,303 in government grant revenue it reported in 2020 and 2019 was Paycheck Protection Program funds. Some ministries are open to such funding, providing it does not require them to stop counseling against abortion, with some feeling that pro-life groups should get government money if abortion providers receive taxpayer dollars.

Ferraro praised one nonprofit partner that has reported a growth in government grants: Human Coalition, a Dallas-based nonprofit and ECFA member that owns and operates seven women’s care clinics and partners with others. Founded in 2009, it says it has saved 4,483 babies.

In 2019 Human Coalition had income of $15.8 million, including $6.7 million in government grants. That was up from 2017, which saw $9 million in income, and government grants of $2.8 million.

In a statement, a Human Coalition executive said pregnancy ministries experience may be called upon as never before if the Supreme Court does overturn Roe.

We partner with local churches to mobilize their members and get vulnerable women the support they need. We run call centers to connect women to helpful resources. And we coordinate long-term care for these women by using existing infrastructure. We educate and advocate…If Roe gets overturned, the resources we’ve worked for over the last 50 years to establish as an alternative to Planned Parenthood must be ready and waiting. 

States have been providing funding to pregnancy ministries since Robert Casey, the pro-life governor of Pennsylvania signed a funding law in 1991, according to the AP. Now, Republican-led states are increasing such funding.

Ferraro says women in “trigger states”—where legislation restricting abortion will go into effect as soon as Roe is overturned—may be particularly vulnerable. “They may become desperate and perhaps take drastic measures to end their pregnancies,” she said. “As a church, we need to step up and provide these services.”

Four out of ten women who have abortions were actively attending church at the time of their abortion, according to 2015 research by Care Net.

Stork Buses park near bars, nightclubs, college campuses, and other sites where they can reach young women. Lately, some have been dispatched to the Texas border to reach women driving to Colorado, where abortion remains legal and the number of abortions performed has grown.

The buses also park in front of abortion clinics on days the clinics perform abortions, but Ferraro says Stork workers don’t harass or threaten women. And if a bus is parked near an abortion clinic when an anti-abortion protest takes place, the bus leaves the area.

Ferraro says humane polices like this drew her to Save the Storks after witnessing activists in earlier decades combat abortion by screaming at women through bullhorns and holding graphic signs.

The AP report found that state funding for abortion alternatives hasn’t always gone smoothly.

Pennsylvania-based Real Alternatives is a nonprofit that receives government funds to provide abortion alternatives. But an audit found that Real Alternatives misappropriated funds intended to help Pennsylvania women, using the money to fund new programs in Michigan and Indiana. And in 2019, Michigan canceled its $700,000 budget for abortion alternatives after it found that Real Alternatives had failed to provide promised services.

In addition to state funding, the federal government has provided more than $2 billion to fund abstinence-only education programs since 1996. Some studies say these programs do little to reduce pregnancy rates.

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Steve Rabey

Steve Rabey is a veteran author and journalist who has published more than 50 books and 2,000 articles about religion, spirituality, and culture. He was an instructor at Fuller and Denver seminaries and the U.S. Air Force Academy. He and his wife Lois live in Colorado.

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