April 27, 2016 — Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal (R) on Tuesday signed into law a bill (Act 360) that creates a funding program for antiabortion-rights crisis pregnancy centers (CPCs), the AP/Sacramento Bee reports.
The bill was introduced in response to the release of misleading videos targeting Planned Parenthood's fetal tissue donation program (Foody, AP/Sacramento Bee, 4/26). Prior to the bill, Georgia Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle (R) called for the state to defund Planned Parenthood, but the effort was unsuccessful and antiabortion-rights lawmakers shifted their focus to funding CPCs.
According to the Guttmacher Institute, 96 percent of Georgia counties in 2011 did not have an abortion clinic, and those counties were home to nearly 60 percent of Georgia women of reproductive age. Overall, there are more than 4,000 CPCs in the United States. CPCs receive direct state funding in at least 12 states.
The new law, proposed by state Sen. Renee Unterman (R), establishes a fund that the state Department of Public Health (DPH) will allocate to CPCs throughout Georgia.
According to Unterman, there are about 70 CPCs in the state (Women's Health Policy Report, 3/14). Emily Matson, executive director of the antiabortion-rights Georgia Life Alliance, said approximately 40 of those CPCs have medical licenses, while the remaining centers offer non-medical services (AP/Sacramento Bee, 4/26).
Under the law, DPH is required to ensure that none of the funds are distributed to organizations that provide abortion counseling in instances other than life endangerment. The measure prohibits the use of funding for abortion care and prohibits referrals to abortion providers.
To be eligible for funding, CPCs have to register as not-for-profits and agree to undergo annual state audits. Further, the law requires the state to monitor how many women seek abortion care after visiting a CPC (Women's Health Policy Report, 3/14).
Lawmakers have proposed $2 million in funding for the program under the state budget. According to the AP/Bee, Deal, who is still reviewing the spending plan, has until May 3 to finalize the state budget for the fiscal year beginning July 1 (AP/Sacramento Bee, 4/26). Under the new law, the CPC program also can accept private donations (Women's Health Policy Report, 3/14).
Abortion-rights supporters denounced the new law, noting that CPCs use misleading tactics to get a pregnant woman to seek care at the facilities and then do not disclose to the woman all possible pregnancy options. Opponents of the law also pointed out that the state instead could fund sexuality education or counseling programs.
Elizabeth Nash, a policy analyst at the Guttmacher Institute, said the law "allows state funds to go to organizations providing women with incomplete information or outright misinformation." She added that instead, "The state should be ensuring women are getting the best, most accurate and relevant information" (AP/Sacramento Bee, 4/26).