Lawmakers propose permanent state funding for pregnancy support centers

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By: Jake Stofan | Capitol News Service
January 22, 2018

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (CNS) -- Proposed legislation at the state capitol would make $4 million in state funding for pregnancy support centers permanent.

The bill would build funding for pregnancy support centers into the base budget. It now comes from one-time revenue, and the permanency worries pro-choice advocates.

Women's advocates say the often religious-affiliated businesses undermine a woman's right to choose.

"It gives away our tax money to clinics that are spreading lies about abortion," said Barbra DeVane of the Florida National Organization for Women. "They're demeaning young women."

Ryan Sprauge, the CEO of the Pregnancy Help and Information Center in Tallahassee, says centers like his offer women help through a pregnancy.

"Any number of classes that I think everybody, whether you're pro-choice or pro-life or don't care, you'd say is a good thing for education for a mom to get," he said.

Amelia Zehnder, an FSU student, went to a similar pregnancy center, but not one funded by the state. There have been no formal complaints received by the state against the centers run by Florida Pregnancy Care Network, which holds the contract.

The centers say women are free to leave at any time and go to other clinics, like Planned Parenthood, that offer abortions and contraception.

Sprague says while the centers do offer religious materials upon request, they don't bill the state for those visits.

"When we do a class on car seat safety, we can invoice the state for that class," he explained. "If an hour later we do a class on interpreting the bible, we can't invoice the state for that class."

More than 45,000 Floridians were served by 105 pregnancy centers around the state in 2016.

The Senate is expected to vote on the legislation later this week. If passed, its next stop would be the governor's desk.

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