Donor-Advised Funds: The Anti-Abortion Movement’s Best Kept Secret

| Reproaction

By: Annie Romano

It’s no secret that unchecked political spending has made the playing field for social justice movement work challenging, with deep pocketed far-right funders bankrolling causes that go against the interests of the majority.

Donor-advised funds, or DAFs, are a popular tool of the anti-abortion conservative movement due to their anonymity and alluring tax benefits. DAF accounts are often opened within a larger for-profit organization, the largest of which include Fidelity and Schwab. [1] Donors who open DAF accounts within these organizations can immediately contribute their cash or non-cash assets (i.e. real estate, stocks, and 401k plans) to the account, where they receive immediate tax benefits for their donation. Over time, account holders can recommend, or grant, these funds to nonprofits of their choosing. Unlike donations through private foundations or direct giving, DAF grants can be made completely anonymously. [2] Host charities, like Fidelity or Schwab, are not required to disclose the names or amounts of individual donors, only the total amounts donated to each charity overall. This anonymity, in combination with their quick start-up time and immediate tax benefits, make DAFs an increasingly popular choice for charitable giving among the wealthy. [3]

One DAF in particular, Atlanta-based National Christian Foundation (NCF), contributes millions per year to the anti-abortion movement. The National Christian Foundation makes grants only to charities that share their purportedly Christian values. [4]

Although not all grants from the National Christian Foundation go to religious organizations, many of their largest grant recipients include conservative legal organizations and churches. Some large 2020 grant recipients include the Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), which is designated as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center. [7] They served on the legal team in the Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization case that overturned Roe v. Wade, and the Family Research Council, an ultra-conservative organization who recently petitioned Walgreens to stop dispensing abortion pills. [5,6] Both organizations received more than $7 million each in untraceable National Christian Foundation grants in 2020. [7]

Also troubling are the hundreds of thousands of dollars that National Christian Foundation donors grant directly to anti-abortion fake clinics. [8] Anti-abortion fake clinics are the extremely wealthy backbone of the anti-abortion movement, using deception and disinformation to pressure people to carry a pregnancy to term. They are especially troublesome now as legitimate abortion clinics continue to close. In 2020, National Christian Foundation donors granted more than $500,000 to anti-abortion fake clinic network Care Net, a network of thousands of anti-abortion fake clinics across the U.S. that, among other things, hosts creepy men’s conferences training men seemingly to coerce their partners into ongoing pregnancy.

On top of millions of dollars in public funding through Temporary Assistance for Needy Families dollars, state-level Alternatives to Abortion initiatives, and other taxpayer-funded granting programs, it’s clear the anti-abortion movement is financially stacked even without no-strings-attached anonymous cash flows like DAFs. In fact, the National Committee for Responsible Philanthropy found that fake clinics hold a 5:1 funding advantage over legitimate abortion clinics and funds in the United States, excluding money from DAFs and individual donors. [9] The result is exactly what we’re seeing now: legitimate abortion care getting harder and harder to access, while anti-abortion fake clinics try to prove their legitimacy and assert themselves as a replacement for comprehensive sexual and reproductive health care. [10] No way.

We must continue to fight to increase abortion access despite this massive financial disadvantage. What we do have in our favor is truth, justice, and public opinion. [11] Through donating to abortion funds and practical support groups, raising awareness about the very anti-abortion fake clinics National Christian Foundation supports, and getting anti-abortion fake clinics off the public payroll, we can limit their reach in our communities, and promote the type of quality health care we want for ourselves and our neighbors.


















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