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While Cutting Family Planning Funds, Texas Lawmakers Divert Millions To Crisis Pregnancy Centers

Photo: N/A, License: N/A

Photo: N/A, License: N/A

Atop the increased state funding, CPCs are seeing an additional stream of money thanks to anti-choice legislation filed in 2011. Senate Bill 257 allowed for the creation and purchase of controversial “Choose Life” license plates from the Texas Department of Motor Vehicles. For $30, anyone with a car and an anti-choice point of view can wear their abortion ideology on their back-end bumper. While contention centered on the plates’ message, the controversy was not purely politically cosmetic.

The legislation also set up a special account, administered by the state Attorney General, directing $22 of the sale price to flow to any nonprofit organization that provides material assistance to pregnant women considering adoption without charging for services. The nonprofit must not contract with, affiliate with, or refer to abortion clinics, or (obviously) provide abortions, either. Based on those specific eligibility requirements, the pool of recipients narrow down to mostly CPCs. Further, the account can receive legislative appropriations and private gifts, grants and donations from “any source,” according to the legislation.

During floor debate over the legislation in 2011, then-state Rep. Joaquin Castro (D-San Antonio) described the bill language as “vague” and “disturbing,” and sought to regulate who could be part of the team overseeing fund recipients. State Rep. Villarreal argued unregulated centers shouldn’t see any extra public funding, offering up an amendment that would direct the dollars to regulated maternity homes. Despite these and other arguments, those amendments were tabled and the bill sailed through a Republican majority.

Today, that pot of money, some $39,000, netted from plate sales is set to be allocated to 13 grantees with no match or volunteer requirement strings attached. According to records obtained from the Office of the Attorney General, four of the 13 grant award winners already receive state funding through the Alternatives to Abortion program.

To ensure the money falls into the right hands, state Attorney General Greg Abbott stacked the committee tasked with reviewing the grant applications and making recommendations with anti-choice crusaders with backgrounds working for crisis pregnancy centers. Of the seven-member advisory committee, six have ties with or have headed Texas CPCs, some of which are state-funded. One sits on the advisory board of Texas Alliance For Life, the group that lobbied hard to make the plates a reality, and another previously served as a regional coordinator for the Gladney Center for Adoption, a soon-to-be recipient of $10,000 from the plate fund—the most generous grant award given.

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