Today Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott announced the first recipients of funding from the state’s new “choose life” license plates. Thirteen organizations from Corpus Christi to Dallas will split $46,100 generated from the sales of almost 2,300 plates. The anti-abortion groups will use the money to provide services—mostly media advertising—promoting adoption over abortion.
In 2011, the Texas Legislature authorized the sale of specialty license plates exhorting Texas drivers to “choose life.” For $30, Texas drivers can purchase a cheerful kid-drawn plate and $22 will go toward anti-abortion organizations. Non-profits bid for the cash through a “competitive grant process.”
But it’s not that competitive. Applicants that provide abortions or have any affiliation with abortion providers are specifically barred from applying. A “Choose Life Advisory Committee,” comprising seven prominent figures in the anti-choice world, picked the winners.
The lucky recipients are all crisis pregnancy centers and anti-choice maternity homes, like Aggieland Pregnancy Outreach, Inc, which will receive $5,000 for “media advertising to promote adoption and the services of the organization”, or Corpus Christi Hope House, which is getting $5,000 to provide adoption training for staff and material assistance for pregnant women.
The Texas Medical Association condemns the methods crisis pregnancy centers use to persuade vulnerable women not to have abortions. Critics contend they use manipulative tactics to promote birth or adoption and provide misleading and scientifically-biased information. For example, they tell women that abortion causes suicidal thoughts and breast cancer, although there’s no medical evidence for such claims. They subject vulnerable clients to inaccurate yet graphic descriptions of the abortion procedure. In exchange for such biased counseling, the centers give women “mommy dollars” with which to buy baby gear from their stores.
Regardless, the state bankrolls scores of centers in Texas.
In an Observer investigation last year, we reported that crisis pregnancy centers had received $26.3 million in public money since 2005. The cash comes from state budgets for family planning, health screenings and preventive care. These crisis pregnancy centers do not provide any medical care to their clients, yet charge the state more per person than a family planning clinic would. Moreover, crisis pregnancy centers prefer chastity over prevention, so they dissuade their clients from using contraception that might protect them from sexually transmitted infections or further unplanned pregnancies.
Earlier this year, lawmakers channeled another $4.15 million per year into crisis pregnancy centers. Accordingly, five new center—in Clarksville, Leander, Odessa, Sulphur Springs and Paris—have joined the state-funded rolls, increasing the current number to 53.
Meanwhile, at least four family planning clinics closed this year for lack of public funding. This adds to the 60-plus that closed last year due to budget cuts, and the 14 abortion clinics that closed this month as a result of House Bill 2.
By the numbers