Throughout the month of August, The Texas Tribune is featuring 31 ways Texans' lives will change come Sept. 1, the date most bills passed by the Legislature — including the dramatically reduced budget — take effect. Check out our story calendar here.
Day 14: Despite making deep cuts across the state's budget, lawmakers increased funding for anti-abortion crisis pregnancy resource centers.
The vast majority of faith-based crisis pregnancy resource centers in Texas go unregulated, but an estimated 26 are affiliated with the state, meaning they receive financial support and oversight from the Texas Pregnancy Care Network, a nonprofit charity organization that contracted with the Texas Health and Human Services Commission during the last biennium to distribute $4 million a year in state support to 47 crisis pregnancy centers, adoption agencies, social service agencies and maternity homes.
According to TPCN's website, an estimated 1,500 women seek their services each month and more than 40,000 clients have been served since the network was formed in 2006. For the next two years, lawmakers opted to add an additional $300,000 for a total budget of $8.3 million for its Alternatives to Abortion program.
TPCN Executive Director Vince Friedewald said the extra funding will allow it to expand by contracting with more providers and increasing reimbursements.
Located several miles north of the state Capitol, Austin LifeCare has offered free services to women for more than 25 years, including counseling, diapers, clothing and classes that range from parenting to personal finance. There is an exam room on site where two obstetricians and two nurses volunteer their time weekly to provide ultrasounds to expectant mothers. Aside from pregnancy tests, no other medical exams are permitted on the premises.
Executive Director Pam Cobern said the goal of Austin LifeCare is to be a source of support and compassion for women. See her interview and learn more about how Austin LifeCare works in the video below.
Cobern said ALC is supported by more than 40 different churches and receives 3 percent (around $45,000) of its annual funding from the state. She said the money comes in the form of reimbursements for counseling time, some curriculum materials, and the students who attend classes.
"It really doesn't have that much of an impact on us," she said, although aligning with TPCN has made theirs “a better, more professional center.”
As a condition, Austin LifeCare must divide their curriculum into spiritual and nonspiritual tracks. Under TPCN guidelines, “misleading a woman in crisis pregnancy about the scope of available services is neither compassionate or caring.” The state reviews phone protocols and advertisements. Graphic images are prohibited from being shown. Cobern said women who come to ALC are told they have three options. They can go through with their pregnancy, pursue adoption, or abort. ALC’s counselors do not coerce or lead the women. However, it is their standard policy to refer women to anti-abortion community health clinics that are not affiliated with Planned Parenthood.
Texas Health and Human Services Commission page on "Alternative to Abortion"
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