Texas House budget zeroes out state funding for crisis pregnancy resource centers
One of the early casualties of massive budget cuts is state funding of nonprofit crisis pregnancy resource centers, according to the first draft of the Texas House budget. The shared mission of the centers is to provide counseling and sonograms to pregnant women to convince them not to choose abortion.
During the past two budget cycles, the state provided the centers with $13 million, primarily through a contractor, Texas Pregnancy Care Network. In 2007, the Legislature voted to provide $2.5 million per year to the centers, diverted from federal grants through the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program (TANF) via the Texas Health and Human Services Commission. In 2009, lawmakers upped support to $4 million per year, with $1.5 million per year coming from the state’s general revenue.
According to 2010-2011 budget documents (which along with the tentative 2012-2013 proposal can be retrieved from the Legislative Budget Board website), the centers were estimated to serve some 36,000 people during the current biennium.
The current budget calls for eliminating state funding for the centers, which are typically independently operated and faith-based. According to Texas Pregnancy Care Network, 44 centers serve 150 counties in Texas.
State funding accounts for nearly all of the network’s revenue. According to fiscal year 2010 information posted on the network’s website, the HHSC contract provided $4 million in revenue, while other income and support totaled less than $90,000. In fiscal year 2009, the network took in less than $65,000 in revenue from sources other than HHSC.
Crisis pregnancy care centers are typically staffed by volunteers, not licensed counselors, and unlike Planned Parenthood clinics, do not provide healthcare services such as STD testing, cancer screenings or physical examinations.
The Texas Independent has previously reported on anti-abortion group Heroic Media, which currently does marketing for crisis pregnancy care centers and has ambitious plans for international expansion, including helping to open new centers.
Also cut from the current budget is funding for abstinence education, which totaled $1.1 million in the current budget cycle. The program is intended to instruct minors that abstaining from sex is the “preferred choice of behavior for unmarried couples,” according to budget documents, and is the only method that is 100 percent effective in preventing pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases. Abstinence education was estimated to serve about 10,600 people in the current biennium.
[Editor's note: This story was updated Feb. 14 to clarify that Heroic Media intends to help groups open their own pregnancy centers, and does not plan on opening and operating its own centers.]