The Potluck

Advocates call on state to cut ‘Positive Alternatives to Abortion’ program

By: - October 27, 2021 9:01 am

Photo courtesy of Minnesota History Center.

Reproductive rights advocates on Tuesday called on the Legislature to cut $3.3 million in state money going to organizations that encourage women to carry their pregnancies to term.

Twenty-seven organizations received grants of up to $350,000 through Minnesota’s “Positive Alternatives to Abortion” program this year, including some so-called “pregnancy resource centers,” according to a report released Tuesday by progressive legal nonprofit Gender Justice.

The organizations aim to prevent people with unintended pregnancies from getting abortions. The report from Gender Justice and others alleges many of the groups often advertise free services like pregnancy tests and counseling, but most don’t provide medical care and frequently make false or misleading claims about abortion. 

“State funding for real (medical) providers should be a top priority for legislators,” said Erin Maye Quade, advocacy director for Gender Justice and state Senate candidate, during a news conference. “By funding (these centers), the state is reinforcing abortion stigma and diverting public resources away from our communities.”

A spokesperson for Minnesota Citizens Concerned for Life, an anti-abortion group, said in a statement to the Reformer that pregnancy resource centers “provide loving support for women, their children and their families.” 

“These care centers offer women practical assistance and real alternatives to abortion that they don’t get elsewhere. Countless women have benefited from these programs,” the statement says.

For the report, a group of legal nonprofits, including Gender Justice, analyzed more than 600 pregnancy resource centers — also called “crisis pregnancy centers” — across Alaska, California, Idaho, Minnesota, Montana, New Mexico, Oregon, Pennsylvania and Washington. Ninety of them were in Minnesota. 

More than half of Minnesota’s centers made false or biased claims about abortion, the report says. For example, several warn that abortion can lead to severe mental health issues due to “post-abortion syndrome,” which is not a diagnosis recognized by mental health professionals.

Twenty-two also promoted “abortion pill reversal,” a procedure that claims to use high doses of progesterone to stop the effects of medication abortion. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists calls it “unproven and unethical,” and “not based on science.”

The state’s “Positive Alternatives to Abortion” program, enacted in 2005, mandates that the Minnesota Department of Health award grants to organizations that “support, encourage, and assist women in carrying their pregnancies to term and caring for their babies after birth.” Statute requires the programs to provide assistance with medical care, nutrition, housing and parenting education. They’re not allowed to encourage, counsel or refer clients for abortions.

Other organizations that receive funding through the state program include Cradle of Hope, which helps families cover bills and buy baby supplies as part of their goal to “prevent abortions from taking place”; the Minnesota Prison Doula Project, which works with pregnant women in prison; and the Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Winona-Rochester.

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Rilyn Eischens
Rilyn Eischens

Rilyn Eischens is a former data reporter for the Minnesota Reformer. Rilyn was born and raised in Minnesota and has worked in newsrooms in the Twin Cities, Iowa, Texas and most recently Virginia, where she covered education for The Staunton News Leader. She's an alumna of the Dow Jones News Fund data journalism program and the Minnesota Daily. When Rilyn isn't in the newsroom, she likes to read, add to her plant collection and try new recipes.