The Potluck

Fact check: Anti-abortion pregnancy centers receive millions in state funding in Minnesota

By: - June 27, 2022 2:21 pm

Protesters at the Supreme Court in March 2020, when the justices were hearing arguments in June Medical Services LLC v. Russo. Robin Bravender/States Newsroom.

Republican Lt. Gov. candidate Matt Birk incorrectly said in a Saturday Facebook post that all Minnesota so-called crisis pregnancy centers are privately funded.

In fact, $3.4 million in state dollars annually goes to the crisis pregnancy centers, which are organizations that encourage women to carry their pregnancies to term rather than terminate.

Birk made the false statement while talking about his concern over recent vandalism of anti-abortion crisis pregnancy centers. These anti-abortion centers often advertise themselves in a way that makes them appear to be abortion providers, but their goal is to dissuade women from having abortions. 

Birk said in the post he is on the board of directors at the Wakota Life Center in West St. Paul, and such centers do “life-saving work” and provide emotional support, medical care and supplies to pregnant women who are scared, nervous and “don’t have anybody else to turn to.” 

“What these pregnancy resource centers do is they actually enable women and families to choose life, and they’re not funded by the government,” he said. “They’re all funded through private donations.” 

Apparently, Birk isn’t aware that the Wakota Life Center was awarded $350,000 per year, for five years through the state Department of Health’s “Positive Alternatives to Abortion” program. Last year, 27 Minnesota groups received grants of up to $350,000 annually for five years, including “pregnancy resource centers” like Wakota, which received the largest grant.

The Minnesota program, enacted in 2005, awards grants to organizations that “support, encourage, and assist women in carrying their pregnancies to term and caring for their babies after birth.” The law 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.

Birk is gubernatorial candidate Scott Jensen’s running mate.

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Deena Winter
Deena Winter

Deena Winter has covered local and state government in four states over the past three decades, with stints at the Bismarck Tribune in North Dakota, as a correspondent for the Denver Post, city hall reporter in Lincoln, Nebraska, and regional editor for Southwest News in the western Minneapolis suburbs. Before joining the staff of the Reformer in 2021 she was a contributor to the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times. She and her husband have a daughter, son, and very grand child. In her spare time, she likes to play tennis, jog, garden and attempt to check out all the best restaurants in the metro area.

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