House Democrats call for investigation into crisis pregnancy center funding

July 11, 2024

A pair of Oversight Committee Democrats are asking a government watchdog to investigate the amount of federal funding directed toward crisis pregnancy centers (CPCs), anti-abortion nonprofits designed to convince people not to terminate pregnancies. 

In a letter sent Thursday to the Government Accountability Office (GAO) and shared first with The Hill, ranking member Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.) and Rep. Maxwell Frost (D-Fla.) asked for a study into how much federal money CPCs have received annually and from which federal accounts. 

CPCs have been allowed to receive federal funding since 1996, though Raskin and Frost said there has been limited oversight and transparency into how that money is allocated and used. 

“Given the concerns from medical professionals and reproductive health experts that CPCs are not bound by medical and ethical practice standards and often do not provide medically accurate information or health care, and the resources they do provide are tied to undermining maternal health and access to abortion, we have serious concerns that CPCs continue to receive millions in federal aid with little transparency and accountability to the public,” they wrote.  

Recently, a study found that more than 650 CPCs in 49 states and Washington, D.C., received $400 million in federal funding, including block grants, between 2017 and 2023. More than half of the money came from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act, which distributed more than $280 million to CPCs.  

Funding also came from programs including Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), Teen Pregnancy Prevention, Title X Federal Family Planning grants and the Federal Emergency Management Agency Emergency Food and Shelter Program. 

The centers have increasingly been at the center of legal and political fights. Earlier this year, House Republicans tried to block a Biden administration proposal to prohibit states from directing TANF funds to CPCs.  

Since the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade two years ago, dozens of states have banned or restricted abortion, spurring anti-abortion groups to expand the network of crisis pregnancy centers, which outnumbered abortion clinics even before the ruling. 

The anti-abortion movement has framed crisis pregnancy centers as a source of aid for desperate women in states with abortion bans who have no choice but to give birth. 

While most crisis pregnancy centers offer counseling and basic medical assistance to pregnant women, including ultrasounds, others give misleading information in an effort to discourage abortion, according to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. 

CPCs often do not adhere to the federal law requiring privacy protections, and experts have raised concerns that the centers might be exploiting patients’ personal data. 

The Democrats asked the GAO to look at federal funding directed to Heartbeat International, Care Net and the National Institute of Family and Life Advocates, which support most of the CPCs in the country.