(Correction: Although the Guttmacher Institute is a member of the National Healthy Mothers, Healthy Babies Coalition, which is a founding partner of the Text4Babies program, the institute was not directly involved in developing the program.)
(CNSNews.com) – The Department of Health and Human Services -- as directed by the new health care law -- is now accepting applications for a grant program that will help states provide support services to pregnant teens and women.
Such support services already exist in the form of privately funded pregnancy resource centers, which don’t expect to benefit from the new federal program, said a spokesman for one pregnancy resource center.
The Pregnancy Assistance Fund – established on page 2,162 of the new health care law – offers states a total of $25 million for each fiscal year through 2019.
States that win the grants will distribute the money to organizations and programs that support pregnant or parenting teens and women who want to complete high school or college, for example, or who need access to health care, child care, housing and “other critical support.” The Health and Human Services Department also announced that states may use the funds to combat violence against pregnant women.
But some pro-life and pro-family advocates point out that pregnancy resource centers have provided similar support services for decades -- without government funding. The pro-life advocates see the new grant program as a way for the Obama administration to funnel more taxpayer dollars to pro-abortion groups such as Planned Parenthood and NARAL Pro-Choice America.
Jeanne Monahan, director of the Center for Human Dignity at the Family Research Council, told CNSNews.com that one particular program mentioned in the grant application is a good indication of the kind of groups that will end up getting the money.
Section IV of the grant application asks applicants to describe how they would use the grant money, and it cites as a successful example “Text4baby," a program designed by the federal government in partnership with the Guttmacher Institute and organizations affiliated with the Planned Parenthood Federation of America.
“I think it’s fair to say (pregnancy resource centers) will find it challenging to apply for these grants,” Monahan said.
When asked by CNSNews.com if pro-life groups such as pregnancy resource centers would be eligible for the grants, a spokesman with the Health and Human Services Department’s Office of Public Health said no groups are prohibited from receiving funds as long as a state or tribe agrees that the services offered by a group meet the criteria of the Pregnancy Assistance Fund.
“Any organization is eligible to apply, and those that do receive funds must use them in compliance with the program requirements,” the spokesperson said.
In announcing the $25-million grant program on July 2, the Health and Human Services Department listed institutions of higher education, high schools, community organizations, and state attorneys-general offices as “potential partners for States in this program.”
But critics such as the Family Research Council charge that pro-abortion groups, including Planned Parenthood, will be vying for the funds.
“FRC has been a leading voice for life-affirming pregnancy services, but we strongly oppose the idea that these grant recipients should include any group that financially profits from abortions,” the group said in a statement.
“The only way to help these mothers and their babies is by funneling the $25 million to organizations that won't make a profit from their work, namely pregnancy resources centers,” the statement said. “And if President Obama truly cared about these women, HHS would have issued real regulations--this time enforcing his Executive Order to strip abortion from the health care bill.”
Melinda Delahoyde, president of Care Net, noted that the federal government already gives Planned Parenthood millions of taxpayer dollars:
“While the government annually provides $350 million to Planned Parenthood, the country's largest abortion provider, virtually no federal funds have been allocated for the purpose of helping women who choose to carry to term,” Delahoyde told CNSNews.com.
“We are encouraged that the government is finally setting aside a small amount of funds in the Pregnancy Assistance Fund to support those women who make the courageous and selfless choice to give life to their babies despite life's challenges.
“Our hope is that the White House will be true to its word and use this money to reduce abortion by giving it to those organizations that truly help women choose life,” Delahoyde said. “We also hope that the White House will use this opportunity to commend Pregnancy Resource Centers, which have already been providing these services to pregnant women for over 40 years at virtually no cost to the U.S. taxpayer.”
Joe Young, vice president of ministry for Heartbeat International, an association of 1,100 pregnancy-help centers, maternity homes, non-profit adoption agencies, medical clinics and abortion recovery programs in 50 countries, told CNSNews.com that $25 million for teens and women who have their babies is a “drop in the bucket” compared with the money the government spends on abortion providers.
A May 28, 2010 Government Accountability Office (GAO) report shows taxpayers paid $967.1 million to groups that perform or promote abortion between 2002 and 2009.
All 50 states, the District of Columbia, Indian tribes and all U.S. territories are eligible to apply for the federal grants by the August 2 deadline. HHS said it expects to award up to 25 grants in the amounts of $500,000 to $2,000,000 per year.
Some of the grant money is expected to go to programs that provide parenting resources for students in high school and college. Those resources may range from education and job training to material support, including baby clothes and equipment.