Texas House votes to restore state funding for anti-abortion, faith-based nonprofits
The Texas House approved Friday an amendment to state budget bill House Bill 1 that restores funding — albeit at a reduced level — for a program that pays faith-based nonprofits to counsel women with the intent to dissuade them from having an abortion.
Investigations by the Texas Independent and other entities, including the San Antonio Express-News, have shown that at least some state-funded crisis pregnancy centers conflate religious and educational material.
During floor debate on the House budget, representatives OK’d an amendment by state Rep. Randy Weber (R-Pearland) that diverts $7.3 million from family planning services to the Alternatives to Abortion Services Program, which was budgeted $8 million in the past two-year budget cycle. Until Weber’s amendment, HB 1 did not have any funding allocated for the program for the next biennium.
Weber’s original amendment would have diverted $8.3 million — the same amount prescribed for the anti-abortion program in the Senate’s version of the budget — but state Rep. Charles Perry (R-Lubbock) proposed an amendment of his own that put $1 million of that into the Department of Assistive and Rehabilitative Service’s Early Childhood Intervention program. Weber agreed to Perry’s amendment to his amendment.
As the Texas Independent has previously reported, the Alternatives to Abortion program spent $11.7 million from 2006-2010, with another $4 million allocated for 2011. Of the money spent, nearly $7 million went to 33 nonprofit subcontractors, 32 of which have Christian affiliations.
Overall, about 78 percent of the money going to subcontractors went to counseling. The rest of the subcontractors’ funding went to client referrals, classes on topics such as pregnancy and parenting, and for food, clothing and furniture pantries.
In three of five years that the Alternatives to Abortion Services Program has existed, it missed targeted goals for number of clients served and number of client visits, as the Texas Independent previously reported. Meanwhile, the compensation for the executive director of the program’s main contractor Texas Pregnancy Care Network has increased each year for which records are available.
Weber’s amendment passed by a vote of 100-42, with only Democrats dissenting. In addition to Republicans, state Reps. J.M. Lozano (D-Kingsville), Armando Martinez (D-Weslaco) and Sergio Muñoz Jr. (D-Palmview) also voted ‘aye.’ State Reps. Ryan Guillen (D-Rio Grande City) and Joe Pickett (D-El Paso) were marked as absent but not excused, according to unofficial vote totals.