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140 Million Reasons to Worry: Texas’ Abortion Ban Program Fails to Deliver for Needy Families

Texas Thriving Families Program Under Scrutiny

Investigation Reveals Misuse of Funds in Texas Abortion Ban Program

The goal of the Thriving Texas Families program which was formerly known as Abortion Ban Program is to assist families impacted by the state’s abortion prohibition. Texas Standards claims that the state has invested millions of dollars in this initiative which aims to support families and expectant mothers. However, there are significant problems with the way the funds are used and overseen, according to a ProPublica and CBS News investigation. The program’s financing has increased from $5 million to $140 million since 2005. In spite of this there is scant proof that the funds actually assist low-income families. The program’s governing body the Texas Health and Human Services Commission does not keep track of how the money is spent or if it satisfies families’ requirements.

Many of the funds go to anti-abortion nonprofits called crisis pregnancy centers which distribute donated goods like diapers and pamphlets but charge the state high fees for these services. For example, they can bill $14 for handing out a couple of donated diapers or an educational pamphlet. The state lacks proper oversight and hasn’t audited the program despite previous misuse of funds. In one instance a subcontractor used taxpayer money for a smoke shop and land for hemp production. Even after increasing funding some contractors still fail to meet targets for serving clients and making referrals. The largest contractor which is Texas Pregnancy Care Network oversees numerous subcontractors who have broad freedom in spending state money. Some have built significant surpluses instead of spending funds on family support. For example, McAllen Pregnancy Center received $3.5 million but spent less than $1 million on services.

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140 Million Reasons to Worry: Texas’ Abortion Ban Program Fails to Deliver for Needy Families (PHOTO: The Texas Tribune)

Texas Lawmakers Demand Accountability in Mismanaged Thriving Families Program Amid Rising Maternal Deaths

Furthermore, efforts to ensure the program’s accountability have been limited. Lawmakers ordered the Health and Human Services Commission to implement performance measures and hire an outside party for evaluation but progress has been slow. This lack of oversight is concerning especially as more babies are born due to the abortion ban. Texas already has high rates of uninsured women and maternal deaths and the state ranks last in providing cash assistance to poor families. Critics argue that better oversight and direct funding to services like diaper banks would more effectively help needy families. Rep. Donna Howard of Austin calls the situation “unconscionable,” stressing the need for more investment in healthcare services for mothers and babies.

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