Tennessee Considers $100 Million in Funding for Anti-Abortion Clinics

By funding "crisis pregnancy centers' instead of comprehensive sexual health services, states like Tennessee are fanning the fire of a sexual health crisis.

Photo of the top of Tennessee Capitol with flags flying
If Tennessee approves funneling $100 million in a single year to "crisis pregnancy centers," it would make the state the national leader in funding anti-abortion fake clinics. Austen Risolvato/Rewire News Group

State funding for “crisis pregnancy centers,” or anti-abortion centers, isn’t new.

But Tennessee is aiming to break a record: Lawmakers there are considering a budget proposal from Republican Gov. Bill Lee that would give $100 million to these fake clinics in one year.

According to the National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy, crisis pregnancy centers have a 5-to-1 funding advantage over legitimate abortion clinics, thanks in part to state funding. Some states even divert funding from federal programs meant to help low-income families to CPCs.

Texas previously gave $100 million to CPCs over two years. In Tennessee, funneling $100 million in a single year to CPCs would make the state the national leader in funding anti-abortion fake clinics.

This also comes at a time when Tennessee is cutting back on sexual health services. Earlier this year, state officials chose to stop accepting federal funds for HIV prevention and treatment.

First, Tennessee informed Planned Parenthood of Tennessee and North Mississippi—its major partner in HIV services—it would longer receive these funds. Rather than battling it out when Planned Parenthood pushed back, the state simply withdrew from the federal HIV funding program entirely.

Why does all this matter? In addition to misleading people about abortion, CPCs are increasingly advertising STI testing services. However, research shows these services rarely follow public health guidelines.

For example, one study by researchers with the Crisis Pregnancy Center Map found that nearly a quarter of CPCs that offered testing for at least one STI did not provide on-site treatment or treatment referrals. Most that offered testing only tested for two STIs.

CPCs also fail to counsel people on consistent condom use—in fact, they actively discourage the use of contraception, including condoms.

Nationally, STI rates were already on the rise, and they surged during the pandemic. Since 2017, there has been a 68 percent increase in infectious syphilis and a 25 percent increase in cases of gonorrhea.

After several years of declining HIV rates, there was a 16 percent increase in new HIV cases in 2021. That’s despite a dramatic decrease in testing rates, suggesting many HIV infections could be going undetected.

People of color, particularly Black and Latinx people, experience disproportionately high rates of HIV infection, especially in the South—the same region most affected by abortion bans.

As abortion clinics—which often provide other sexual and reproductive health services—close, people have fewer options for care. By funding CPCs instead of high-quality, comprehensive sexual health services, states are fanning the fire of a sexual health crisis.

This post was adapted from a Twitter thread.