Quack “Crisis Pregnancy Center” Hides $1 Million in Taxpayer Money

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Sorta transcript:

I’ve talked before about crisis pregnancy centers — they’re businesses the Religious Right has set up to trick women into giving birth. I know, that sounds ridiculous when you lay it out that way, but unfortunately it’s true. The centers have an air of medical professionalism but in reality many of them don’t qualify as actual medical clinics and so they aren’t even allowed to do things like pregnancy tests.

Whether they qualify as medical clinics or not, an estimated 91% of them have a nasty habit of disseminating completely made-up medical information — all the normal bullshit, like the idea that abortion causes breast cancer (it doesn’t) or depression (nope) or future miscarriage (nuh-uh).

In fact, several crisis pregnancy centers have been caught telling pregnant women that they shouldn’t bother getting an abortion because half of all pregnancies end in miscarriage, anyway, which isn’t true. They do that so that women will put off an abortion until it’s too late.

It’s incredible that these centers are still allowed to operate with pretty much no oversight. But one clinic in Pennsylvania finally figured out what it takes to get shut down — not lying to pregnant women to force them into childbirth, but skimming from the state government.

You see, a ridiculous number of these fake, lying centers get money from the government despite the fact that they are run almost exclusively as religious propaganda to trick women into giving birth. This clinic in particular, called “Real Alternatives” — the “alternatives” are apparently alternatives to science-based healthcare, same as in alternative medicine — got $30 million from Pennsylvania taxpayers over five years. All that money is supposed to go to sub-contractors who provide “services” to pregnant women, mostly “counseling” that amounts to lying about abortion.

But Real Alternatives found a sneaky way to get a little kickback. They charged their subcontractors a 3% fee for every payment, which amounted to just under a million dollars that wasn’t accounted for in their financials. When Pennsylvania officials figured this out, they wanted to make sure that that money was going toward the stated purpose of aiding pregnant women, so they launched an audit. And here’s where it gets really bold: instead of submitting to the audit like any other corporation would do, Real Alternatives chose to sue Pennsylvania’s Auditor General, who says it’s the first time that’s ever happened to him.

The Auditor General didn’t necessarily assume Real Alternatives was misusing those funds, but god damn if it’s not just a little bit suspicious that rather than opening their books and proving the money is being used legally, they’re suing to keep it hidden. It’s all very…Trump-ian.

So maybe the government doesn’t mind giving money to organizations that will blatantly lie to women and endanger their health, but at least the financial guys are on their game. Let’s hope this is enough to shut down Real Alternatives, and make Pennsylvania and other state governments think twice about multi-million dollar grants to these charlatans.

Rebecca Watson

Rebecca is a writer, speaker, YouTube personality, and unrepentant science nerd. In addition to founding and continuing to run Skepchick, she hosts Quiz-o-Tron, a monthly science-themed quiz show and podcast that pits comedians against nerds. There is an asteroid named in her honor. Twitter @rebeccawatson Mastodon mstdn.social/@rebeccawatson Instagram @actuallyrebeccawatson TikTok @actuallyrebeccawatson YouTube @rebeccawatson BlueSky @rebeccawatson.bsky.social

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