North Carolina Legislature Seeks to Quadruple Taxpayer Funding for Anti-Choice Clinic Group (Updated)

Pro-choice advocates have called on North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper (D) to investigate anti-choice clinics and stop public funding for groups that operate the facilities.

North Carolina Republicans lost their veto-proof supermajority in last year's midterm elections, meaning Gov. Roy Cooper (D) could now have more sway in budget negotiations. Joseph Sohm

UPDATE, June 7, 1:38 p.m.: A spokesperson for North Carolina’s health department on Friday told Rewire.News that internal auditors “have begun their review of spending by the Human Coalition.” A completion date for the review was not available. 

North Carolina lawmakers have drafted a state budget for 2019-21 that awards more than $1.2 million per fiscal year to an organization that operates anti-choice pregnancy centers, four times the funding the group received in the previous budget.

Pro-choice advocates, led by the group Reproaction, have lobbied top North Carolina officials to halt public funding for anti-choice clinics, including those run by the Human Coalition, which misleadingly advertises its clinics as offering a full range of reproductive health-care options. In a letter to North Carolina officials sent before the legislature’s budget was released this week, the pro-choice organizations said that Human Coalition has “been known to change the name of the fake clinics they operate to evade detection [by] the women they aim to trick out of procuring abortions.”

The state’s proposed 2019-21 budget has yet to pass either chamber of the GOP-held legislature, though it’s widely expected to clear the house on Friday. North Carolina Republicans lost their veto-proof supermajority in last year’s midterm elections, meaning Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper now has more sway in budget negotiations.

Reproaction has called on Cooper and his administration’s health department officials—such as Health and Human Services Secretary Mandy Cohen—to investigate the Human Coalition and stop state funds from pouring into organizations that operate anti-choice pregnancy centers.

“Until North Carolina taxpayers know what Human Coalition is doing with state money, there should be no funding increases. Certainly not to the tune of millions of dollars that should be allocated to real, comprehensive reproductive health care,” Shireen Rose Shakouri, senior campaign lead for Reproaction, told Rewire.News.

“The legislature directed these funds [to] go specifically to this group,” Ford Porter, a spokesperson for Cooper, said in an email to Rewire.News. “Neither the governor nor his administration requested or supported this funding.”

But Rose Shakouri said Cooper “is perfectly within his ability to direct his administrators at North Carolina’s Department of Health and Human Services to investigate and terminate their contract with the anti-abortion fake clinic chain Human Coalition.” In his response to Rewire.News, the governor’s spokesperson did not say whether Cooper has the ability to stop the funding.

The proposed state budget also includes funding for anti-choice groups like Mountain Area Pregnancy Services and Carolina Pregnancy Care Fellowship (CPCF). The Mountain Area Pregnancy Services website includes misinformation about so-called abortion reversal—a medical procedure pushed by abortion rights foes and unrecognized by legitimate medical organizations—and the supposed risks of abortion care, which is overwhelmingly safe.

Rewire.News reported in 2018 that for years the North Carolina legislature has directed part of its federal Maternal and Child Health block grant to CPCF. The state budget mandates that public “funds shall be used for nonreligious, nonsectarian purposes,” but the Rewire.News investigation showed that clinics subcontracted by CPCF have used federal funding to purchase religious materials “with approval from state regulators.”

Many states with Republican-majority legislatures funnel taxpayer funds into pregnancy clinics operated by anti-choice activists who often lie to pregnant people about their health-care options and don’t offer a full range of reproductive health-care options, like contraception and abortion care.

Public funding of clinics run by anti-choice activists often comes at the expense of families with low incomes: nine of 14 states that distribute taxpayer money to these clinics do so with federal dollars from the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program, according to a 2018 Rewire.News analysis. North Carolina is one of those nine. In 2018, more than $13.4 million in federal funding earmarked for families with low incomes was used for programs that direct money to anti-choice pregnancy centers. Many anti-choice clinics receiving taxpayer dollars, according to the 2018 analysis, operate with almost no transparency or government oversight.