Ashley Underwood, MPH, Director, Equity Forward | October 4, 2022 Blog Post

I am the proud mom of a toddler who has recently become fully potty trained. This was a huge milestone for my family, and I must admit that I am elated to no longer have to buy diapers or pull-ups. Diapers are essential and expensive. Children will go through anywhere from three to six thousand disposable diapers in their first few years. Currently, one in three families in the United States struggles to afford the diapers they need, a fact that was highlighted in September for National Diaper Need Awareness Week. Elected officials need to invest in solutions to address this crisis, including increasing direct support for parents and funding for diaper banks, who have been sounding the alarm for years.

What we don’t need is politicians throwing money at anti-abortion organizations that since Roe v Wade was overturned have been ramping up their asks for funding while spouting the false narrative that they support pregnant people. As a researcher who has investigated anti-abortion centers, I can tell you their claims are untrue; and as someone who knows what it takes to raise a child, I take their lies personally. 

Anti-abortion centers (AACs), sometimes referred to as crisis pregnancy centers, do not provide efficient or effective support. They solely exist to deter and delay people from getting abortions. have been labeled unethical by the American Medical Association, and have been issued consumer protection warnings from Yelp and state attorneys general for their deceptive tactics. AACs exist in all 50 states, including those with maternity care deserts. Nationally, AACs spend millions of dollars on aggressive and misleading propaganda efforts, that include embellishing their material support efforts. For example, AAC giant Heartbeat International, which operates in 68 countries and six continents,  boasted that in 2019 it provided 1.85 million people packs of diapers, baby outfits, strollers and car seats. But when Equity Forward examined the numbers and here is what they worked out to: a stroller distributed to only 1% of their clients, a car seat for only 1.6%, and fewer than two baby outfits and less than one pack of diapers per person. 

In addition, the scant number of supplies given out by these centers are rarely “free”, even though they are advertised as such. Participants must earn “mommy money,” which is awarded based on client attendance at mandated, faith-based counseling and courses. This system of providing goods only after counseling, shows the true agenda behind these centers—to spread propaganda. You don’t have to take my word for it, take theirs. Dinah Monahan, who founded and ran AACs in Arizona lamented that her centers were handing out plenty of free supplies but that their parenting classes were not well attended. So, to boost attendance of their religious teachings such as the Bible Packand Authentic Manhood,” Monahan tied receipt of supplies to class attendance in a curriculum called, Earn While You Learn, which is now used in AACs across the country.  

Shockingly, 14 states fund these programs with public tax dollars, including diverting money from Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF).  TANF is one of the only federal programs that provides direct cash assistance to the more than seven million families living in poverty to purchase diapers and other essentials. Meaning, as the cost of diapers goes up, and as policy experts are proposing solutions to better utilize TANF funds to meet these needs, anti-abortion politicians are taking what is supposed to be direct assistance to support children living in poverty and instead funding anti-abortion programming. 

Not only is it a misuse of taxpayer dollars to fund AACs, it’s a waste of time. Pregnant people and parents working to make ends meet do not need any publicly-funded lectures about their situation. They need publicly funded solutions to help them navigate the labyrinth that is poverty. Instead of funneling money to anti-abortion centers we can connect people to organizations that provide accurate information, and effective programming that addresses the full spectrum of parenting, abortion, and adoption. That’s the only way people will be able to choose if, when, or how they become a parent and allow them to raise healthy, happy children in thriving communities.

---Ashley Underwood, MPH (she/her) is the director at Equity Forward, an organization that produces and shares investigative research on human rights, gender equity and reproductive health, rights, and justice.