Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., has authored a new bill that would specifically authorize states to use Temporary Assistance to Needy Family (TANF) funds to provide "alternative-to-abortion" services. But abortion rights advocates say the measure would funnel money to anti-abortion advocacy groups.
The bill, H.R. 4852, the "Positive Alternatives Act," would carve out a specific exemption to TANF, allowing states to use funding for "information or counseling that promotes childbirth instead of abortion, and assists pregnant women in making an informed decision regarding the alternatives of adoption or parenting with respect to her born or unborn child." The measure would also allow the use of TANF funds for "any other service designed to assist a qualified individual who is a woman to carry her unborn child to term."
Currently, TANF funds can be used for "pre-pregnancy family planning services," but no other medical services. A few states, including Minnesota, Pennsylvania and Louisiana, have interpreted this definition to include "alternative-to-abortion" services, but that interpretation is subject to review by TANF administrators.
The title of the act echoes that of one supported by then-state Sen. Bachmann and the Minnesota Citizens Concerned for Life (MCCL) in 2005. That measure, also called the "Positive Alternatives Act," granted millions of dollars in state support for anti-abortion crisis pregnancy centers.
"Temporary assistance to needy families, if administered properly, should undertake a holistic approach," said Bachmann in a statement. "We cannot regard the help needed by women in difficult circumstances in a one-dimensional way."
But pro-choice advocates blasted the measure.
"Bills like this do absolutely nothing to help women prevent unintended pregnancies and the need for abortion. This legislation is another missed opportunity to find authentic solutions that would truly help women to build healthier, stronger futures," said Kathi Di Nicola, spokesperson for Planned Parenthood of Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota (PPMNS), in a statement given to Minnesota Monitor.
"Crisis pregnancy centers are not legitimate medical facilities, oftentimes discouraging women from using the most reliable methods of birth control and leaving them vulnerable to unintended pregnancy all over again. Federal funding for crisis pregnancy centers results in tax dollars being used to support ideology rather than comprehensive, medically accurate information."
Di Nicola's objections echoed a 2006 report by Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Calif., that found federally funded crisis pregnancy centers had given out "false and misleading" information, including misleading information about the links between abortion and breast cancer, the effect of abortion on future fertility, and the mental health effects of abortion. Moreover, moving more TANF funds into the coffers of "alternative-to-abortion" services will reduce the amount of aid going to needy families.
MCCL did not respond to a request for comment.