Asheville pregnancy center gets 1,000% increase in state funding

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ASHEVILLE — The state has increased funding tenfold for a local pregnancy center, a type of facility that supporters say helps those recovering from terminated pregnancies — but which critics say is a type of ideological organization that discourages abortions.

Asheville Mountain Area Pregnancy Center will receive $550,000 in direct state aid, after a supplementary budget bill passed on June 28 by the Republican-majority General Assembly. This is more than the $50,000 the center received annually.

State Sen. Chuck Edwards of Henderson County — who is running in November as the GOP congressional candidate for western North Carolina — announced the funding along with $500,000 for a center in Hendersonville, Open Arms Pregnancy Support Services Inc.

“I have met the teams at both centers and found them to be well trained, professional and genuine in their mission to provide support for pregnancy related needs, from unplanned pregnancies to material support or loss of life. a child,” Edwards said on Aug. 5.

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He was responding to questions from the Citizen Times about the center’s mission as well as a study by medical researchers who in 2012 said they found that 86% of centers in the state gave false or misleading medical information, such as as links to abortion and breast cancer, infertility and mental health issues.

The remarkable 1,000% funding increase came four days after the landmark US Supreme Court ruling on June 24 striking down federally guaranteed abortion rights.

But it also followed indications of popular support for abortion access. This included a May poll showing that 49% of North Carolinians want the procedure to be legal in most or all cases, compared to 45% who want it mostly or completely banned, as well as the August 2 referendum by voters in the conservative state of Kansas. defend the right to abortion.

In Asheville, after the Supreme Court ruling, hundreds of marchers rallied downtown in support of abortion access.

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Buncombe County Commissioner Jasmine Beach-Ferrara, Edwards’ Democratic opponent for the 11th congressional district, criticized his support for the centers, comparing him to far-right Rep. Madison Cawthorn who was ousted by Edwards during the primary after more than a year of scandals. .

“Chuck’s extreme views on abortion are consistent with Madison Cawthorn’s,” Beach-Ferrara said. “His support of government interference in the relationship between patients and their doctors is out of step with the values ​​of the people of western North Carolina.”

Mountain Area Pregnancy Center, or MAPS, was one of 11 centers in the state to secure more than $3 million in annual funding in a budget signed by Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper.

Cooper, who signed an executive order meant to protect abortion access in the state, did not support that part of the budget, spokesman Sam Chan told the Citizen Times.

“The governor believes that women’s access to health care must be protected and that patients deserve accurate information about their medical options,” Chan said. “While Republican lawmakers included these funds in the budget, this type of funding is not a good idea and deserves public scrutiny.”

“While Republican lawmakers included these funds in the budget, this type of funding is not a good idea and deserves public scrutiny, Chan said.

MAPS’s total revenue was $829,679, in 2020, the last year in which nonprofit IRS filings were available. Center staff declined to provide current revenue figures.

State centers may also receive indirect public funding. This comes from proceeds from “Choose Life” specialty license plates and money directly allocated to the Carolina Pregnancy Care Scholarship. CPCF distributes these funds to members such as MAPS, though funding is difficult to track, said Tara Romano, executive director of Pro-Choice North Carolina.

“We don’t always know who at the NC General Assembly is asking for these allocations for specific centers,” Romano said.

MAPS executive director Kristi Brown said the center uses registered nurses with more than 35 years of combined experience in midwifery practices and an OB/GYN physician with more than 30 years of experience.

The center was vandalized in early June, staff say, with a threatening spray-painted message criticizing the center, according to a police report. Brown said the center was under no obligation to close or reschedule clients.

“When a client comes to see us in a crisis, we use trained medical personnel to counsel clients on their choices,” Brown said. “All medical information provided to customers and/or placed on our website receives our physician’s approval before it is released.”

The center’s website includes testimonials from “post-abortion” women and men who have gone through its abortion recovery program, as well as a list of possible problems with drug-induced medical abortion.

The researchers behind the 2012 study In addition to inaccurate links between abortion and disease and disability, the centers also erroneously stated that the procedure could lead to “abortion stress”.

Dr. Amy Bryant of UNC School of Medicine and Dr. Erika Levi of Yeshiva University’s Albert Einstein College of Medicine said they reviewed websites and used a “secret shopper survey,” with phone calls and visits to pregnancy centres.

“Many crisis pregnancy centers give inaccurate medical information about abortion risks. Overstating the risks stigmatizes abortion, seeks to intimidate women, and is unethical,” they said in the conclusion. .

Joel Burgess has lived at the WNC for over 20 years, covering politics, government and other news. He has written award-winning stories on topics ranging from gerrymandering to police use of force. Do you have any advice? Contact Burgess at [email protected], 828-713-1095 or on Twitter @AVLreporter. Please help support this kind of journalism with a subscription at the Citizen Times.

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