Vitals Reporting on the pro-life movement

Pro-life apples to Planned Parenthood oranges

Life | Pregnancy centers rightly received stimulus funds the abortion giant had to pay back
by Leah Hickman
Posted 8/10/20, 03:40 pm

Heartbeat International has received roughly 25 percent fewer donations since the coronavirus hit the United States in March. At least 50 of the pro-life pregnancy center network’s affiliates contacted the organization’s headquarters at the beginning of the pandemic to say they had to shut their doors, according to the organization’s president, Jor-El Godsey. At the same time, calls to Heartbeat’s Option Line from pregnant women desperate for help increased by 50 percent during the first week of the lockdowns. Call volume went down after the initial shock but remained about 30 percent higher through April and into May.

Meanwhile, Heartbeat’s dozens of staff members had to adjust to working from home. The organization applied for and received a small business loan through the U.S. government’s Paycheck Protection Program to help pay their employees during the financially tight times. Godsey called the loan a fiscal and psychological help. Without the money, he said, continuing to operate “would have been much more difficult … particularly not knowing how long this is going to last.” Heartbeat encouraged affiliate centers to apply for the PPP loans, as well.

Pro-life pregnancy centers and support groups like Heartbeat received between $4 million and $10 million in loans during the first couple months of the pandemic, according to a report from The Guardian. The liberal news outlet based in the U.K. complained that the U.S. government allowed pro-life groups to keep their payouts while it forced Planned Parenthood to return as much as $150 million it received through the program. But the same guidelines that disqualify Planned Parenthood from the bailout money make pregnancy centers ideal recipients.

Although some Planned Parenthood affiliates have fewer than 500 employees—the cutoff set by the Small Business Administration to participate in the loan program—their close ties to the national organization, the Planned Parenthood Federation of America, means they do not fit the definition of a small business.

“The affiliation is clear based on their shared financial structure, their shared branding, their shared political output,” said Katie Glenn from Americans United for Life. For instance, Planned Parenthood’s annual reports list the revenue and expenses of affiliates and the national organization together.

The SBA also lists “common management” as a disqualifying factor for big businesses and their affiliates to take part in the PPP. A letter to the SBA signed by 92 members of Congress described the ways Planned Parenthood exercises this common management, including how it references its affiliates as “local offices.” The national organization also can unilaterally impose its policies and procedures on affiliates and punish them if they fail to comply.

The Guardian pointed out that Heartbeat has 2,700 affiliate pregnancy centers worldwide, but its overall structure differs significantly from Planned Parenthood’s organization. Heartbeat affiliates pay a $250 membership fee and commit to shared principles regarding how they provide services (as outlined in Heartbeat’s Commitment of Care and Competence). In exchange, the affiliates receive support and training opportunities. Also unlike Planned Parenthood, Heartbeat does not require affiliates to use the Heartbeat name or branding.

Godsey noted another crucial difference between Heartbeat and the abortion giant: “We fit better in the myriad of nonprofits that are serving the population, not profiting from the population—and, by the way, encouraging population.”

Planned Parenthood was among several big businesses that ended up paying back PPP loans, including the restaurant chain Shake Shack, which returned an estimated $10 million loan in April. Glenn said examples like that show the federal government did not give preference to pregnancy centers over Planned Parenthood. Instead, the government simply favored small businesses over big ones.

“Planned Parenthood is very obviously an organization that does not meet the PPP rules,” Glenn said. “That is why now they are getting bad press and the government is interested in getting that money back, so they can give it to those businesses and organizations that it was meant for.”

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Leah Hickman

Leah is a reporter for WORLD Magazine and WORLD Digital. She is a World Journalism Institute and Hillsdale College graduate. Leah resides in Cleveland, Ohio. Follow her on Twitter @leahmhickman.

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  • Steve Shive
    Posted: Tue, 08/11/2020 05:22 am

    Very interesting, thanks for this. 

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