Texas Gave Anti-Abortion Centers $5 Million in 2005. The Budget’s Since Ballooned to $140 Million.

According to a new report from ProPublica, no one knows where exactly this money is going or what's is being used for. 

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Texas Gave Anti-Abortion Centers $5 Million in 2005. The Budget’s Since Ballooned to $140 Million.

Before the Supreme Court killed Roe v. Wade in 2022, state governments poured money into anti-abortion crisis pregnancy centers, or CPCs, which claim to provide resources to struggling pregnant people or new parents, but actually target, harass, and lie to potential abortion seekers to dissuade them from having abortions. In states that have since banned abortion, CPCs, which often don’t employ actual medical workers, continue to receive millions in state funding, even as many require clients to attend Bible study to receive benefits like free diapers. But according to a new ProPublica report, in Texas, that state funding is being severely mismanaged.

In 2005, the state allocated $5 million to its Alternatives to Abortion program, which has since been renamed Thriving Texas Families—today, the program receives $140 million. The program, which is run by four contractors, is “supposed to promote pregnancies, encourage family formation, and increase economic self-sufficiency,” per ProPublica. The contractors distribute the funding to subcontractors operating CPCs across the state. But there’s no transparency around what these millions are paying for, and CPCs can charge the state $14 for every single anti-abortion pamphlet they distribute. They can also charge the state $14 for distributing a single pack of diapers—even if the CPC obtained those diapers free of cost from a diaper bank.

Since there are no restrictions on what the funding can or can’t pay for, some anti-abortion centers and their directors appear to be personally enriching themselves from this massive amount of state funding. One group, Pregnancy Center of the Coastal Bend in Corpus Christi, amassed a $1.6 million surplus in state funding from 2020 to 2022. Executive Director Jana Pinson said in 2022 that she would use these funds to build a new facility, but per ProPublica, the group doesn’t appear to be taking any steps toward this.

Nicole Neeley, executive director of Texas Pregnancy Care Network (which receives the most funding of the state’s four anti-abortion contractors), suggested to ProPublica that CPCs can do whatever they want with state funding because, as subcontractors, “what they do with the dollars in their bank accounts is not connected” to Thriving Texas Families and “is no longer taxpayer money.” A spokesperson for the state’s Health and Human Services Department told ProPublica the funding CPCs receive is, indeed, “taxpayer money,” but declined to detail any steps to audit or hold the anti-abortion groups accountable. ProPublica notes that previously, Texas officials didn’t even conduct an audit when, back in 2021, the leader of one anti-abortion subcontractor operating CPCs was caught using state funding to run a smoke shop and purchase land for hemp production. 

“Unfortunately, this is something we’ve seen across a number of states pushing ‘Alternatives to Abortion’ programs,” Shireen Shakouri, executive vice president of Reproaction, which tracks CPCs’ tactics and funding, told Jezebel in a statement. “There is little verification or regulation of how the money is spent, and often minimal evaluation of whether the funding was actually effective in meeting the program’s stated purpose.” 

In January, the U.S. House passed a bill to distribute federal dollars from the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program to CPCs; the bill died in the Senate. But anti-abortion lawmakers in Congress will continue to push this agenda, and Shakouri stressed that this is deeply concerning: “This is especially harmful when TANF money is used, as it could have huge benefits for needy families when allocated and spent in a way that actually centers the needs of those families instead of the anti-abortion agenda.”

Ultimately, it’s telling that Texas is directing such outsized funding to anti-abortion groups, supposedly to distribute resources to pregnant people, instead of directly to diaper banks or other community nonprofits that have been supporting families (and not just pushing anti-abortion propaganda) for years. Instead, anti-abortion government officials want to fund CPCs for an especially insidious post-Roe reason: These facilities exist to surveil and collect highly sensitive information about potential abortion seekers, at a time when pregnancy increasingly goes hand-in-hand with criminal risk. 

Shakouri stressed that the deep ties between anti-abortion groups and state governments “speak to the high level of resourcing of the anti-abortion movement.” 

“Diaper banks and other robust direct service providers just don’t have the money or time to lobby for public funds, but anti-abortion organizations do, and can dedicate a lot of time and money to those lobbying efforts,” she said. “We’ve seen a direct line between anti-abortion fake clinic organizations hiring lobbyists and those clinics getting big bumps in funding in the state budget the following year.”

This isn’t just a Texas issue. In 2023, Tennessee lawmakers allocated $20 million to anti-abortion groups. Florida’s law banning abortion at six weeks simultaneously sends $25 million to CPCs. The leader of Texas Pregnancy Care Network is in the process of developing similar networks in Kansas, Oklahoma, Iowa, and Louisiana. Even before the end of Roe, anti-abortion centers outnumbered abortion clinics 3:1 across the country. 

When lured inside these fake clinics, victims of CPCs have told the Expose Fake Clinics campaign about experiences being stalked and harassed by staff after leaving, including one person who said a CPC worker “began calling her almost daily and telling her that she would die, or end up in hell, or get very sick if she were to go through with the abortion.” Some told the campaign they were forced to sign contracts pledging to not have an abortion before leaving the clinic.

In 2022, Olivia Raisner, co-founder of Mayday Health, published an unsettling video depicting what she found when she went undercover at five different state-funded CPCs in Indiana. Raisner told Jezebel at the time, “They offer free ultrasounds, financial assistance, all the resources necessary, and make it very tempting to lean on them. Unfortunately, we know they’re fake medical clinics whose only agenda is to spread lies, to shame people away from abortion”—often by lying to potential abortion seekers that the health service could cause cancer, infertility, or push them to “suicide,” and that a medication abortion could be “reversed.”

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