Fake Clinics, Real Taxpayer Dollars Misused
Reproaction recently published a rundown of anti-abortion organizations’ reported finances from the last presidential election year. We parsed through how much these groups spend, receive, and pay out to their highest-compensated employees. There are a lot of numbers in our charts and graphs, but one thing is clear: the anti-abortion movement is loaded.
In just one year’s time, we found $197,457,166 total contributions and grants, $208,584,844 in revenues, $211,880,115 total expenses, and $3,769,128 in salaries to top-paid employees for just fifteen of the literally thousands of organizations – including fake clinics – that make up the ‘pro-life’ movement.
That’s why it’s beyond egregious that anti-abortion fake clinics are jockeying for taxpayer dollars to push their regressive ideologies and bad faith medicine. One group that’s gotten a lot of media attention is Obria, who in March received $1.7 million in Title X grant dollars  just a few months before all abortion providers were removed from the program. This ‘domestic gag rule’ by the Trump administration put millions of peoples’ healthcare at risk  and threatens to shutter dozens of independent abortion clinics. 
Despite refusing to offer contraception,  Obria was accepted into the family planning program and given access to millions in taxpayer dollars intended to provide STI tests, cancer screenings, and birth control. The program serves approximately four million people, many of whom would not be able to see a healthcare outside of the program.  What’s worse: Obria joined with Vita Nuova, a new anti-abortion fake clinic group, to sue the federal government for access to even more federal dollars. Among other complaints, the two argued that the government’s requirement that service providers “recognize same-sex marriage” is an infringement of their religious beliefs. 
You would think a group like Obria that is trying to gain legitimacy as a healthcare provider wouldn’t want to partner with one whose founder once claimed people could, “contract STDs and HIV through the water system,” but the story gets even worse: Carol Everett, said founder, has tried and failed to run an anti-abortion fake clinic operation before – and may have skimmed off the top in doing so. Everett allegedly misused state funds in Texas through her fake clinic network called Heidi Group, where she was awarded $1.6 million to replace family planning services previously provided by Planned Parenthood, despite having no medical experience – just anti-abortion activism. Her outfit missed their goals by an enormous margin, seeing only 2,000 of the promised 50,000 clients. Texas eventually terminated its contracts with Heidi Group in 2018. Through multiple programs, Heidi Group received $7 million in taxpayer dollars and largely failed to serve clients as intended in the grant contracts. [5, 6] The Heidi Group was recently ordered to pay back $1.5 million. 
In fact, Obria and Heidi Group aren’t so different: Like Heidi Group, Obria’s history of receiving taxpayer dollars, as well as their compensation to their CEO, warrants a closer look. According to a report by the Campaign for Accountability, “Since 2003, the Obria Group and its related entities have paid [Obria’s CEO] more than $1.8 million in salary. In 2013, her annual salary reached its highest amount at $196,341. In 2016, the most recent year available, her salary was $168,696.” The report also tracked ever-increasing overhead for Obria and the other non-profit ventures she helmed, many of which hungrily sought out state and federal tax dollars for what they say is faith-driven work. 
There are so many more examples of questionable financial practices by fake clinics and like-minded groups: There’s Real Alternatives – which I wrote about previously – misusing millions of Pennsylvania tax dollars including Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF dollars, also called welfare) to expand their business outside the state. Then you have the recent revelation that the Knights of Columbus – which frequently provides funding for ultrasound machines and other medical-seeming wares to fake clinics – has allegedly been involved in a long-term, widespread insurance fraud scheme. [8, 9] Luckily for Michigan, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer vetoed proposed funding to the Real Alternatives operation in her state,  but so many more state and federal programs are now opening up to fake clinics.
In The Guardian, feminist writer Moira Donegan likened the Trump administration’s domestic gag rule to a bully imploring Planned Parenthood to “stop hitting yourself” with a fist clenched around Planned Parenthood’s hand, flailing it against itself. Also like a bully, the administration is essentially nabbing money and resources that should rightly go to providers that offer the full spectrum of reproductive healthcare, redirecting funding from comprehensive healthcare providers to line their friends’ pockets. Donegan ended: “The way to deal with bullies is not to give them what they want, not to surrender to their terms, not to negotiate, and not to slink whimpering into submission.”  It’s vital that we not only expose anti-abortion bullies for what they are, but hold them accountable for robbing people of necessary, comprehensive healthcare.