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$5 million tax credit for crisis pregnancy centers clears Louisiana Senate committee

Stuart Seeger

A bill that would give up to $5 million in tax breaks for donations to anti-abortion crisis pregnancy centers cleared the Senate finance committee on Monday.

The bill by state Sen. Beth Mizell (R-Franklinton) mirrors a law already passed in Mississippi — and it would incentivize donations to crisis pregnancy centers, which under the bill would be renamed “maternal wellness centers.”

Mizell has said the bill is necessary to address Louisiana’s poor maternal health outcomes; the state has among the worst maternal and infant mortality rates in the U.S. She said the centers put pregnant people “on the path to good prenatal care, and actually postpartum care.”

The centers often offer free pregnancy tests, non-diagnostic ultrasounds, parenting classes and material needs, including baby clothes. Some refer people to OB-GYN services. But these clinics are also controversial.

They’re typically run by Christian organizations, and they exist in part to dissuade people from getting abortions. They often promote misinformation about abortion, and some promote false claims about birth control. Some also promote the medically unproven and potentially dangerous practice of “abortion reversal.”

Crisis pregnancy centers are already eligible for welfare funding through Louisiana’s Alternatives to Abortion Initiative. Lift Louisiana, an abortion-rights legal and advocacy group that opposes Mizell’s bill, found in a 2022 report that the state had given over $11 million in grants to crisis pregnancy centers since 2011.

During a hearing in a separate Senate committee, supporters of the bill said it would meet the “growing need” for pregnancy help in the wake of Louisiana’s near-total abortion ban. Prior to the ban, Louisiana’s three abortion clinics performed around 8,000 to 9,000 abortions a year.

The bill would not require crisis pregnancy centers to provide prenatal care, or Medicaid or WIC enrollment. It would require them to refer people for those services, as well as for adoption. It would also seek to standardize services at these centers, requiring them to provide education classes on prenatal care, infant care, breastfeeding, and parenting, and pregnancy tests administered by a registered nurse.

The tax credits would begin in 2025. In order to qualify, the centers would need to be registered as 501(c)(3) nonprofits. The centers would also need to be affiliated with Heartbeat International, Care Net or the National Institute of Family and Life Advocates — all national Christian anti-abortion organizations that have long supported crisis pregnancy centers.

Any organization that is in any way associated with abortion clinics or refers for abortion, or supports abortion rights, would be excluded from the tax credit.

Under the bill, Louisianans would receive a tax credit equal to 50% of their donation to a crisis pregnancy center, up to a maximum of $5,000. The donations would also be spread out across the dozens of crisis pregnancy centers across the state.

The law also requires the Louisiana Department of Health to produce a list of centers eligible for the tax credit. The Health Department is already required by law to provide links to Louisiana’s crisis pregnancy centers.

But the health department wouldn’t actually oversee the services offered by the centers — which aren’t medical clinics. Nor would any other state agency.

“The Department of Health, to be perfectly candid on it, it got a little fuzzy on what their role would be,” Mizell said during a previous Finance committee hearing. “They really didn’t want to oversee the centers, and the centers frankly don’t want to be overseen.”

There is also minimal government oversight for crisis pregnancy centers that receive welfare dollars.

The bill now moves to the Senate floor, though a date hasn’t been set for when lawmakers will discuss it.

Rosemary Westwood is the public and reproductive health reporter for WWNO/WRKF. She was previously a freelance writer specializing in gender and reproductive rights, a radio producer, columnist, magazine writer and podcast host.

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