By Kate Butler
The North Carolina General Assembly allocated more than $18 million in taxpayer dollars to crisis pregnancy centers across the state in the recently passed FY 2022-2023 state budget. Reproductive rights and pro-choice advocates claim these centers are not what they appear to be, and there is ample evidence their claims have merit.
“Crisis pregnancy centers are organizations that seek to intercept women with unintended pregnancies who might be considering abortion,” writes Dr. Amy G. Bryant, and Dr. Jonas J. Swartz in their 2018 study entitled, “Why Crisis Pregnancy Centers Are Legal but Unethical.”
“Their mission is to prevent abortions by persuading women that adoption or parenting is a better option,” Drs. Bryant and Swartz state in the study, which was published by the American Medical Association. “They strive to give the impression that they are clinical centers, offering legitimate medical services and advice, yet they are exempt from regulatory, licensure, and credentialing oversight that apply to health care facilities.”
On July 11, Gov. Roy Cooper signed the state budget into law — just 17 days after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade. The high court’s landmark decision effectively stripped all federal protections of a woman’s right to bodily autonomy.
The state budget totals nearly $60 billion, thus the $18 million allocated to crisis pregnancy centers might seem insignificant. However, the fact these facilities are not clinical centers offering real medical services or advice to pregnant women raises serious questions about the N.C. General Assembly’s intentions.
“No human authority shall, in any case whatever, control or interfere with the rights of conscience,” the North Carolina Constitution declares under Sec. 13, “Religious Liberty.” The state constitution provides for a separation of church and state, thus the funding of crisis pregnancy centers presents a legal and moral dilemma for state lawmakers.
The U.S. Supreme Court decision to overturn Roe v. Wade led to protests and outcry across the globe, culminating in Kansas voters annihilating a gambit by that state’s Republican-controlled legislature to amend the state constitution to strip away Kansas women’s fundamental rights to bodily autonomy on August 2.
Nearly 60 percent of Kansas voters said NO to the referendum and YES to protecting abortion access, guaranteed by their state’s constitution — the first test for reproductive rights in a post-Roe America.
While North Carolina has not yet declared restrictions or legal action with regard to abortion access, the 2022 midterm elections now loom even larger. Reproductive rights advocacy groups are already speaking out about the state legislature’s questionable use of taxpayer dollars.
“North Carolina is still one of only 12 states that has not yet expanded Medicaid, leaving hundreds of thousands of North Carolinians without health insurance,” Tara Romano, Executive Director of Pro-Choice NC, stated. “Instead of ensuring people across the state can access affordable healthcare, the recent state budget instead diverts almost $19 million in public taxpayer dollars to anti-abortion centers.”
Chapel Hill resident Adrienne Kirschner — a reproductive rights activist — stated most of these pregnancy centers lie to women for the purpose of manipulation.
“Their primary purpose is to get the outcome they want, not the outcome that is best for the individual or their family,” Kirschner said.
Religious ideology often supersedes the health and well-being of the women seeking medical care, according to critics of pregnancy centers.
“Women do not receive comprehensive, accurate, evidence-based clinical information about all available options,” Drs. Bryant and Swartz state in their 2018 study. “Although crisis pregnancy centers enjoy First Amendment rights protections, their propagation of misinformation should be regarded as an ethical violation that undermines women’s health.”
Romano said the continued diversion of public health dollars boils down to politics and ideology, rather than a serious attempt to address the healthcare needs of all North Carolinians.
Currently, there are 14 abortion clinics in North Carolina — a number that pales in comparison to the nearly 100 pregnancy centers across the state — most of which are not designed to assist individuals seeking safe abortion access.
Pregnancy centers are known to delay and, as a result, prevent women from getting the healthcare access they need. Chapel Hill resident Mary Tanner, a pro-choice advocate, said when people are in a vulnerable, time-sensitive, and deeply personal phase of their life, they need accurate information about all legal options available to them, including abortion services.
“I don’t understand how the state deems unlicensed pregnancy centers worthy of taxpayer funds to intervene in decisions which are best decided between a woman and her health care providers,” Tanner said.
Education, advocacy and a high voter turnout are all productive ways to express one’s disapproval of this questionable use of taxpayer dollars. Write your state legislator, speak up and speak out, but most of all, make sure your vote counts on November 8.
For more information on crisis pregnancy centers and ways to make your voice heard, visit: