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Louisiana’s proposed tax credit for anti-abortion pregnancy centers clears first hurdle

 Louisiana lawmakers are considering giving donors to anti-abortion crisis pregnancy centers a new income tax break. (Photo courtesy of Pexels)
Louisiana lawmakers are considering giving donors to anti-abortion crisis pregnancy centers a new income tax break. (Photo courtesy of Pexels)

A proposed income tax credit for anti-abortion crisis pregnancy centers — one that could cost the state as much as $5 million annually — cleared its first hurdle Monday in the Louisiana Legislature.

Senate Bill 41, sponsored by Sen. Beth Mizell, R-Franklinton, would allow individuals and corporations to claim an income tax break of up to $5,000 annually for donations made to controversial crisis pregnancy centers, which are referred to as “maternal wellness centers” in the legislation.

The tax break would apply to half of an individual donation made to one of these organizations. It could be used for income earned from the beginning of 2024 through the end of 2030.

The legislation specifically prohibits these tax benefits from going to organizations that recommend or support abortion services.

“There is a growing need for this type of service in the state,” said Kimberly Schultz, who testified in favor of the bill at a legislative hearing Monday.

Schultz, who identified as a birth mother, said she could have used this type of center when she became pregnant at 14 years old and decided to place her baby with an adoptive family.

Another woman who testified, Ysabel Corbello, said she found a local crisis center in Lafayette extremely helpful when she found herself pregnant during her freshman year of college.

Pregnancy crisis centers also have several critics. The organizations are faith-based and have falsely claimed abortion increases a person’s risk for breast cancer and infertility and equated emergency contraception to abortion, according to Lift Louisiana, an abortion rights advocacy organization.

Lift Louisiana also says the centers suggest they are akin to medical facilities, but they often don’t employ nurses or doctors. Many refuse to administer or promote birth control.

“[The centers] do not provide health care and they are not regulated,” said Michelle Erenberg, executive director of Lift Louisiana, at the hearing.

Pregnancy crisis centers also receive direct support from the state already. Louisiana has transferred federal money earmarked for low-income families — through the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program — to the centers for years. In the current budget cycle, the state has allocated over $2 million to these organizations.

Mizell, who opposes abortion, has attempted to address some of the concerns from Lift Louisiana and others in her proposal.

Under her legislation, the Louisiana Department of Health would develop a set of standards to govern the centers that qualify for the tax incentive program.

The centers would be obligated to provide pregnancy and postpartum services such as infant care, breastfeeding, parental education classes, counseling and pregnancy tests administered by a nurse.

Mizell’s bill also mandates the centers provide an annual report to the state explaining how they spend their donations and what types of programs they offer.

The Louisiana Senate Committee on Revenue and Fiscal Affairs forwarded Mizell’s proposal to the Senate Finance Committee with no objections Monday, though the committee members capped the total amount of tax credits that could benefit a single crisis pregnancy center at $250,000.

Sen. Jay Luneau, D-Alexandria, worried that only a few of the state’s 36 centers would end up benefiting from the tax incentive if a strict cap wasn’t placed on how much one center could take advantage of the program.

Ben Clapper, executive director of the anti-abortion Louisiana Right to Life organization, spoke in favor of the bill Monday and said Mississippi, Arizona and Florida have already approved similar tax credit programs.

Lawmakers are also considering other tax incentives for adoption and pregnancy in response to the state’s abortion ban going into effect last July.

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