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Budget has $2M for anti-abortion pregnancy centers

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Echols
Echols

A state budget proposal appropriates $2 million to private entities that encourage women to carry their unborn children to term.

The proposed fiscal year 2020 budget would allow the state to allocate money to crisis pregnancy centers — nonprofits that dissuade women from having an abortion.

This would be the first time the state has funded such grants since the Oklahoma Legislature made the grants possible when it passed the Choosing Childbirth Act in 2017.

In order to be eligible for grant funding, an entity must be a nonprofit that counsels pregnant women with accurate information on the development of unborn children. Per the 2017 act, the nonprofit cannot counsel women to have a non-medically necessary abortion nor can it refer a woman for such an abortion.

The line item in the proposed budget, which gives the funding the state Department of Health, stems from House Bill 2592, introduced by Rep. Jon Echols, R-Oklahoma City. The House Majority Leader’s bill calls for appropriating the $2 million from the state’s general revenues.

This is the first year the Legislature has had the money to fund the grants, Echols said. That’s largely due to a rare state budget surplus.

He said the funding shows what he calls the compassionate side of the anti-abortion movement. It’s not just about passing legislation to restrict abortions, it’s about helping women who are facing an unplanned and difficult pregnancy by helping them get maternity clothes, prenatal care and more, he said.

“That’s what these crisis pregnancy centers are there for, they’re to assist women who have decided they would like to have a child, but they need resources, they need help,” he said. “What we’re trying to do is to fund that help.”

Rep. Forrest Bennett, D-Oklahoma City, said that $2 million could be better spent on other health initiatives. He pointed to reviving the Department of Health’s uncompensated care fund and boosting funding for the Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services as alternate options.

Providing resources for pregnant women is a laudable goal, but there are clinics and family planning centers outside of these centers that offer such services, Bennett said.

Without providing details, he also questioned some of the advice and guidance crisis pregnancy centers provide pregnant women.

“While I absolutely support money going to public health initiatives, crisis pregnancy centers are not as reliant on science as the others,” he said.

The Department of Health is slated to receive approximately $60 million, including $5.8 million in new funding, in next year’s budget.

The Senate will vote Tuesday on the general appropriations bill — the backbone of the state budget. The House passed the bill Friday.

Carmen Forman

Carmen Forman covers the state Capitol and governor's office for The Oklahoman. A Norman native and graduate of the University of Oklahoma, she previously covered state politics in Virginia and Arizona before returning to Oklahoma. Read more ›

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