Opinion | Please Gov Whitmer, don’t end funding for pro-life pregnancy services

Rebecca Mastee

Rebecca Mastee is a policy advocate for Michigan Catholic Conference, the official public policy voice of the Catholic Church in Michigan.

Pregnancy is a beautiful gift, but it also can be overwhelming. The feeling of being overwhelmed is often magnified for women who struggle to make ends meet, face limited family involvement, receive a poor prenatal diagnosis, or experience abuse or other challenges. Public policies can and should do more to offer care to pregnant women. No mother should have to go through her pregnancy alone, especially when a helping hand can make a world of difference. 

For the past five years, Michigan has prioritized women and children in various communities through the Pregnancy and Parenting Support Services Program. This policy partners with existing pregnancy and social service agencies to provide comprehensive support and alternatives to abortion, offering assistance through the baby’s first birthday. This assistance comes in many forms, including counseling, adoption information, parenting classes, and referrals for pre- or post-natal care. The program also offers items such as baby clothing, formula, diapers, and furniture. 

When facing obstacles during pregnancy, many women understandably question if they are able to handle it. Others feel pressured by a loved one to have an abortion. This Michigan initiative, however, demonstrates the importance of wrapping mother and baby with support, as abortion should never feel like a woman’s only option. In fact, after benefitting from the program’s services, approximately 85 percent of women who felt pressure to abort later changed their minds and gave birth to their babies (2019 statistics). Many in society regrettably tell women that motherhood will conflict with their goals. Each service provider in the program, however, reminds clients of all they can accomplish, including obtaining further education, moving into a career, and becoming a mother.

Since June 2014, this pro-woman, pro-life effort has served 8,393 clients statewide through 32,595 visits, all at no cost to mothers or their families. Its results include overwhelming health outcomes: 98 percent of women were connected to a health care provider for prenatal care, 94 percent took their child to pediatric appointments, and 93 percent kept their child’s immunizations updated. 

During Fiscal Year 2019, the Legislature appropriated $700,000 toward the Michigan Pregnancy and Parenting Support Services Program. The funding is a small fraction of the state’s $58 billion budget, but its impact has made a significant difference in local communities. The assistance has helped providers form genuine relationships with their clients, encouraging and celebrating their accomplishments. It has empowered women to care for their children and to overcome obstacles. 

The experiences of Cassie and Katrina (not their real names), two clients of the Michigan program, demonstrate how this initiative helps women succeed. Cassie had struggled previously with addiction and abuse. Program staff provided counseling, substance abuse recovery, and referral to a domestic violence shelter as they built a relationship with Cassie. With the assistance she received, she gave birth to a healthy girl. Now several years sober, Cassie said her daughter’s birth “saved her life.” For Katrina, the news of her pregnancy came at a time when she had no access to permanent housing. After reaching out to her local provider, she received a temporary place to stay, maternity clothing, personal hygiene items, and bus passes for transportation to medical appointments. Katrina felt “safe, encouraged, and cared for” by staff, who helped her develop goals and confidence. Today, she is looking at colleges, living in safe and affordable housing, and planning a wedding to the baby’s father. The compassionate relationship offered by Michigan’s pregnancy and parenting services provided hope and strength to Cassie and Katrina when they needed it most. 

The Michigan Legislature has approved funding to continue offering a helping hand for pregnant women and their babies. Unfortunately, Governor Whitmer eliminated the item in her budget recommendations, and it is unclear whether she will retain the appropriation included by the Legislature in the final budget. Pulling the funding, especially at a time of great need in our communities, would be unnecessarily divisive and harmful. Instead, Michigan should continue to lift up and care for its pregnant women and their children. 

Continuing the Michigan Pregnancy and Parenting Support Services Program should not be controversial. Throughout the 2019-2020 legislative session, Republicans and Democrats have each spoken about how women do not want to have abortions. Over the past five years, abortions have slightly decreased in the state, from 27,629 in 2014 to 26,716 in 2018. Initiatives such as Michigan’s program play an important role in these reductions by helping women feel a greater level of support. That work is worth preserving. 

Regardless of where Michiganders stand on abortion, they can take pride in the services provided by well-trained and highly capable volunteers and staff at various pregnancy centers across the state. Even in the most difficult circumstances, the Pregnancy and Parenting Support Services Program offers compassion, assistance, and hope. Michigan women and children deserve no less. 

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Fri, 09/27/2019 - 1:45pm

That's a Church function. Buy some more billboards.

Fri, 09/27/2019 - 2:52pm

Wondering why you dropped the word "Adolescent" from the name of the program?

Todd Parola
Fri, 09/27/2019 - 7:41pm

The church already operated tax free and you think you should get more public money to advance your war against women?

Filthy. Filthy. Filthy church.

Mon, 09/30/2019 - 9:45pm

Such a constructive comment (not)! I went back and read the article again, but still cannot see where anything this entity is doing constitutes a "war against women".

Susan Burack
Fri, 09/27/2019 - 7:42pm

If the state can fund pro-pregnancy clinics, it must also fund Planned Parenthood which offers education/information about birth control and abortion. No woman should be forced to bear a child. The Roman philosopher poet Lucretius pointed out 2000 years ago in De Rerum Naturum that a fetus does not survive outside the womb until it is born. When it takes it first breath, it is "a life."

Sat, 09/28/2019 - 7:08am

Susan, you feel that your mother would have had the right to have you killed right before you were born because you had not yet taken a breath?

Fri, 09/27/2019 - 9:57pm

Is this where we have are now as human beings? To talk so casually and callously about the lives of the most innocent and defenseless living beings? And, you also missed the point about helping mothers! It is scary to think where we are going next. If no one cares about the lives of others, it is a free-for-all . . . no rules . . . the strongest bullies survive until someone bigger and stronger comes along.

Mon, 09/30/2019 - 11:24am

A perfect description of the Republican policy strategy. Give the richest people and companies $2 trillion in tax cuts, cut health insurance for regular people, defund Planned Parenthood, jail kids and refuse to care for them.
Keeping voting against kids and real people and you'll get more and more of this - don't plead ignorance and surprise.

Fri, 09/27/2019 - 10:16pm

Government has no business funding anything at all to do with abortion. For or against it. But since government seems to get its hands into everything it's not supposed to...you cannot fund one and not the other. It's not anyone's business what any person does with their own bodies. Government should not be dealing in healthcare at all in all honesty. It only drives prices up. If it's churches providing this service then the church should pay for whatever services they provide. Separation of church and state. If government funds are wanted for church services then those churches should not be tax exempt.

Paul Jordan
Fri, 09/27/2019 - 11:32pm

Some smart advertising person once coined the phrase 'pro-life' to substitute for 'anti-choice'. The reality is that EVERYONE is pro-life--but some of us are also 'pro-choice'.
It is extremely important that pregnant women have a real choice about whether to carry a fetus to term. This is an issue of freedom itself, and it is governments' business to protect that freedom.
The government has no business funding any organization that does not present pregnant women with the full array of their choices.

Mon, 09/30/2019 - 2:00pm

Or "Pro-Choice" to decribe Pro- Abortion? In the 1800's why didn't we decribe Pro-Slavery people as Pro-Choice? Were slaves (or a fetus), really human? Especially ironic mantle for those on the left who are almost entirely opposed to people being allowed to make any other choices for themselves.

Sat, 09/28/2019 - 9:13am

When your so called clinics stop pretending to be "real doctors" and stop using the bible to justify against abortions... then you will be fully funded. However, pro-birthers loves to spread misinformation, false science, and claim there are pills that reverses abortions without proven scientific facts to back them up do not deserve full funding. It was illegal in the first place to award funding to fakes...

Sad christian
Sat, 09/28/2019 - 12:52pm

Religion needs to stay out of women’s healthcare. I believe abortion should be safe, legal, and rare. But the ultimate decision is between a woman and her doctor. Period.

William Berry
Sat, 09/28/2019 - 5:44pm

I applaud Governor Whitmer for her opposition to state support of pro-life programs. Pro-life is a religious issue that the church needs to resolve. I personally became a Planned Parenthood supporter, many years ago as a young man who was convinced, that God would not look favorably upon me fathering children that I could not expect to feed, house, educate and do everything else parenting requires. As such I was blessed with three beautiful children who are assets to the world. I shudder when I think of the lady who the media labeled "Octo Mom" when she gave birth to eight children on top of the six she had for a total of fourteen. Not a father in sight and I believe the Doctor involved was imprisoned for his participation. I believe the state should, if anything, take the Planned Parenthood position and promote responsibility for ones actions not expect me the taxpayer to foot the bill.

Sun, 09/29/2019 - 2:40pm

Pro-Life is a religious movement that pretends to be a medical and mental health one. The up-front lie about their motivations should give you an idea of how they operate and whos interests they really have in mind.
A pregnant woman should receive all the help she needs to make an informed decision herself, not a load of factually incorrect dogma and indoctrination.
If you feel the government should fund religious movements, then it should fund all of them, including from groups diametrically opposed to pro-life doctrine, such as The Satanic Temple.

Sun, 09/29/2019 - 6:09pm

All of the information for all of the attributes that you and I distinctly have were present at the moment of the “Big Bang”! The continuum of cell division, change, growth, and death are present from that moment to the moment that we die. There is no point where it is stagnant. I can think of nothing more heinous than a human mother having her human child killed because it’s “her right”. As previously suggested, if your mother had decided to have you killed before you took your first breath, would you agree that she had that right? Do you really think that your life does not/did not matter at all? How sad for humanity. If a woman visits one of these centers and still decides to have an abortion, at least now she knows what it is she is having killed.

Mon, 09/30/2019 - 8:49am

In many cases, a female gets pregnant and her Christian family or one of these agencies convinces her to put the child up for adoption. Sends her away to a home for shameful "harlots", anyone who has premarital sex or any sex where the intent was not explicitly to have a baby, even in marriage. It doesn't matter if the pregnancy resulted from rape, incest, or pedophilia. They say horrendous things like she probably enjoyed the sex or she would have spontaneously miscarried.

While at the Christian living facilities, typically wealthy adoptive parents who desperately want a child, but cannot be gay, shop around for the perfect white child and basically buy a baby from the tax-exempt Christian social services program that provides housing. That organization can recoup market rate living expenses that include: rent and utilities, food, transportation, maternity clothing, phone service, and much more.

It's basically a tax-subsidized human trafficking front for families that like to live with shame and guilt, throwing their own daughters under the bus. They talk a lot about the guilt of abortion, but never talk about the guilt of women who sell their babies to strangers, not to mention the deep psychological problems the adopted children endure knowing they were rejected and abandoned by their biological families.

Churches have a long history of sordid behavior in addition to good works and need to do some soul searching, look at the harm they do, instead of thinking they alone are doing God's work.

Moreover, churches should never get tax money, especially when they are already tax exempt. Our Constitution separates church and state with the establishment clause. We are not a theocracy.

Kelly R.
Wed, 10/02/2019 - 9:16am

Bigotry in the name of religion is still bigotry.