Report Questions Oversight Of Centers In Florida Pregnancy Program That Use State Dollars
A recent report from Equity Forward, a group dedicated to transparency and accountability around anti-reproductive health groups, points to the use of public dollars for alternatives to abortion, like Florida’s Pregnancy Support Services Program.
Florida uses state money for their alternatives to state money unlike a number of other states — including Indiana, Louisiana, Michigan, Missouri, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania and Texas — which use federal Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) dollars for their alternative programs. Lawmakers recently approved putting $4.5 million towards the Pregnancy Support Services Program in the upcoming fiscal year, starting July 1. In recent years the state has allocated $4 million annually.
"Alternatives to abortion programs have absolutely ballooned over recent years across the United States," said Molly Bangs, the director of Equity Forward. "I think taxpayers in Florida, and I think taxpayers across the United States, deserve to understand how these alternatives to abortion programs are being run."
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The Equity Forward report points to the lack of clear standards, for centers that focus on alternatives to abortion, to meet and a reduction of oversight by the Florida Department of Health — which did not reply to WLRN about that concern.
"We are very concerned about the inaccurate medical information that is provided across the board at these centers," said Amy Weintraub, the director of Progress Florida, a partner group of Equity Forward. "They mislead people into thinking that abortion is problematic when, in fact, it's one of the safest procedures that a person can get. We believe that there’s a serious, serious issue with this lack of separation of church and state."
The website of the Florida Pregnancy Support Services Program states that "participating pregnancy help centers do not provide or refer for abortion, and do not handle adoptions."
WLRN asked the Archdiocese of Miami about the services offered at its Pregnancy Help Centers in Broward and Miami-Dade Counties. Rebecca Brady, the director of the Respect Life Ministry, said they don't want to seem like a medical office for clients, since they are open about helping people continue with a pregnancy.
"If we can if we can share new information that wasn't known before to a client that might that might change their situation or the factors that are going into their decision, then we're happy to empower them to choose what's best for themselves," Brady said. "We’re there to support them no matter what. We have clients who choose abortion and we say, ‘We still love you. We still support you. We’re still here for you in whatever you need.’"