Republicans push back against Biden plan to end federal funding for anti-abortion counseling centers

WASHINGTON (AP) — There's a new turn in the fight abortion Access, Congressional Republicans are trying to block the Biden administration expenditure rules They say it would cut millions of dollars from anti-abortion counseling centers.

The rule would prevent states from sending federal funds So-called "crisis pregnancy centers" have been set up for needy Americans, who advise against abortion. At stake are millions of dollars in federal funds that currently flow to organizations through the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program, a program created in 1996 to give cash assistance to poor children and prevent out-of-wedlock pregnancies. It is a block grant program.

"Programs that provide pregnancy counseling only or primarily to women after they become pregnant may not meet the ... standard," the Health and Human Services agency said in its rule proposal issued late last year. Are."

More than 7,000 comments have been submitted on the proposed rule, which includes a series of restrictions on how states are able to spend TANF funds.

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Congressional Republicans introduced this week Legislation It would prevent the Health and Human Services agency from restricting funding from the centers. There is no possibility of this bill becoming law this year.

"Pregnancy centers are a vital and important option for expectant mothers," Republican Representative Darin LaHood of Illinois said during a House Ways and Means Committee hearing to mark up the legislation on Thursday.

The centers' mission is not only controversial because activists often advise pregnant patients not to get abortions, but critics say, the organizations may provide some misleading information about abortion and contraception, such as suggesting that abortion can Breast cancer may occur. Most centers are religiously affiliated and are not licensed health facilities. They usually offer pregnancy tests and some provide limited medical services like ultrasound.

The Humane Coalition, an anti-abortion organization with locations in Georgia, Ohio, Pennsylvania, North Carolina and Texas, estimates it will lose millions of dollars in funding, said Chelsea Youman, the group's national director of public policy. He said plans to expand to Louisiana and Indiana could be put on hold if the rule goes into effect.

Youman argues that her organization helps connect women to social services like Medicaid, as well as motivate them to continue their pregnancies.

"The work we do is really compassionate and loving care for women who are sometimes facing the most difficult moment of their lives," Youman said.

HHS is suggesting several changes that would alter how states can use $16.5 billion in block grants for the nation's neediest families. The proposal comes after a high-profile corruption scandal In Mississippi, where $77 million in TANF funds were wasted over several years.

The restrictions would limit how much money benefits middle- and upper-income people, the agency says, adding that the percentage of poor households receiving cash assistance has fallen from nearly 70% in 1996 to more than 21% in 2020. For example, the plan would restrict how states use money for college scholarships and child care.

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