My, How This Crisis is Growing

During the debate in the Texas Legislature over the family-planning cuts, many Democrats didn't vote at all. In the Legislature's color-coded voting system, a green light means yes, a red light means no and a white light means present, not voting. Since the money would be disbursed into other worthy causes, plenty of Democrats chose to turn on the white light. "I will not be caught trying to decide whether to fund child one or child two," Houston Representative Sylvester Turner told her fellow lawmakers.

But there's one reallocation the Democrats could have comfortably objected to: the $300,000 that Representative Randy Weber from Pearland shifted from family-planning to Alternatives to Abortion, the state program that funds anti-abortion crisis pregnancy centers.

Crisis pregnancy centers have been around since 1967 and began gaining traction throughout the 1970s and '80s. They attract women with free pregnancy tests, then provide pamphlets and counseling, often religiously focused and always designed to persuade women to keep their children or put them up for adoption. An increasing number also offers sonograms, although the centers — also called "pregnancy care" or "pregnancy resource" centers – aren't medical facilities and provide no other care. They've been criticized for providing medically inaccurate information and for teaching chastity over contraception.

Yet over time, CPCs have attracted more and more federal funding, much of it from abstinence-only education initiatives. Since 1982, about $130 million in federal abstinence-only money has gone to CPCs, according to the Sexuality Information and Education Council of the United States. There are now an estimated 4,000 of them nationwide, compared with around 750 abortion clinics. About 165 CPCs operate in Texas, and North Texas has at least 20, including Birth Choice, the Downtown Pregnancy Center and the White Rose Women's Center.

Most CPCs aren't regulated by the state and can't receive state funding. But Texas is among 20 states that provide funding for some CPCs. Alternatives to Abortion, which funds 20 or 30 centers throughout the state, has received a biannual budget since 2005, and has watched it grow from an initial $2.5 million to $8.3 million – still relatively small, but up more than 200 percent in just six years.

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Anna Merlan
Contact: Anna Merlan