How Do You Spell Despicable?

One of the most telling accusations against self-proclaimed “pro life” activists is that they aren’t really pro life, they are pro birth. If they were really concerned about protecting life, they would support feeding hungry children, and oppose everything from dangerous pollution to gun violence to the death penalty. Instead, their concerns magically vanish once the fetus emerges from the womb.

A report from the Guardian underscores that observation.

At least 10 US states have siphoned millions of dollars from federal block grants, meant to provide aid to their neediest families, to pay for the operations of ideological anti-abortion clinics.

These overwhelmingly Republican-led states used money from the federal Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program (Tanf), better known as welfare or direct cash aid, to fund the activities of anti-abortion clinics associated with the evangelical right. The clinics work to dissuade women from obtaining abortions.

In all cases, the states used these funds even as Covid-19 caused the worst economic upheaval in nearly a century, left one in four families without enough to eat, and resulted in mass layoffs that had a disproportionate effect on low-income and racial minority Americans.

Among the states that have diverted dollars from feeding hungry children in order to line “pro life” pockets are Indiana, Louisiana, Michigan, Missouri, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania and Texas.

Despicable is too nice a word.

These 10 states funneled the money through “Alternatives to Abortion” programs, part of state budgets established by conservative legislatures and often run through state health departments. They not only send millions in federal welfare funds, but also state taxpayer dollars to such centers.

The article details other measures imposed by the states that effectively prevent TANF and other social welfare funds from reaching their intended beneficiaries. A number of those measures are demonstrably racist, but they all begin with the assumption that poverty is evidence of moral failure; the resulting legislation is thus punitive, rather than ameliorative.

Back in 2017, I reported on a survey that found religion to be a significant predictor of how Americans perceive poverty. Christians, especially white evangelical Christians, are much more likely than non-Christians to view poverty as the result of individual moral deficit.

The article cites Missouri as an example of the results of that view:

“We’ve created a new class of Missourians,” Glenn Koenen, a hunger adviser with the left-leaning group Empower Missouri, said at the time the reforms were passed. “We now have legislated that some of our neighbors are too poor to get help from anti-poverty programs.”

Between 1 January 2016, when the reform went into effect, and April 2021, more than 71% of beneficiaries dropped off Missouri’s program. That included 28,643 children and 16,942 families.

Missouri then spent funds not paid to families on other programs, among them the Alternatives to Abortion program. Since 2017, it has sent $26m to anti-abortion clinics, according to state budgets. The average monthly benefit for a Missouri family is $256.

Evidently, the Missouri legislature was perfectly okay with punishing 28,643 children for their parents’ perceived moral deficiencies.

The article proceeds to document the medically-inaccurate “facts” and outright lies routinely told by these “Crisis pregnancy” centers to the women who visit them, and it reports on the religious indoctrination to which they must submit in order to get the minimal help–diapers and milk, for instance–that the centers offer. It also points out that nationally there are far more such centers than there are abortion providers– more than 2,500 ideologically focused, anti-abortion clinics, compared with just 800 abortion providers.

There are a lot of adjectives we might use to describe a refusal to feed and clothe living children in order to force women to give birth. Pro-life is definitely not one of them.


  1. Despicable is spelled “Donald Trump”. Until this country has rid itself of this scourge the Republicans and “pro-life” in more issues than “pro-birth” will rule. It was pro-Donald Trump which led to the severity of the Covid-19 Pandemic in this country and the deaths of millions. The full count of loss of life of forced birth mothers and their unborn and those who died of botched abortions will never be known…probably ignored and never counted. The continuing and soaring loss of life due to mass shootings and individual shootings due to lax gun laws must be included in their ANTI-pro-life movement.

    The entire foundation of the Republican party is now ANTI-pro-life; the anti-abortion fetuses are just the poster symbols for the party.

    “There are a lot of adjectives we might use to describe a refusal to feed and clothe living children in order to force women to give birth. Pro-life is definitely not one of them.”

  2. Yes, I’ve already started an email chain to get to the truth in Indiana. The Indiana Dept of Health claims that I must contact FSSA, which administers those funds. I’ve forwarded my email to them.

    I also did a little checking since The Guardian article links to one of the agencies tracking these anti-abortion clinics. I found the one in my local area and have already looked through their Form 990. One of the main supporters is a local couple who is very involved in the real estate business. It wasn’t surprising to see their names and the churches involved. A farmer involved (donor) receives a rather large federal government subsidy (welfare).

    I’ll keep pushing through, but I suspect it will require an FOIA request because of the quick response by the PR folks at the DOH. I’m going through the same thing with unemployment insurance, a federal benefit administered by the state. When the Governor (all Red State governors) has rescinded the federal unemployment bailout, the US DOL is not let off the hook.

    Not surprising that Mike Pence started diverting funds from TANF to these right-wing agencies. However, one of the main players is out of PA and is currently under investigation for carving out a special fee for themselves. Yes, Indiana was paying an out-of-state agency to set up these anti-abortion clinics that have been skimming off the top. Again, not surprising.

    If I had a law license, it would tie me up all day in court fighting these rulings, but they are all winning cases. The problem is who is going to pay for my $250 an hour. A poor person on unemployment? A poor person receiving TANF?

    I could do this as a journalist, which is supposed to happen, but as The Guardian did, they can only go so far. I’m surprised they even had it in their paper, to begin with. Where is the IndyStar?

    Where are all the advocates who serve the common people in this oligarch? There are none. The newspapers are the free press, and they aren’t doing it. We elect the representatives, and they are doing it against the poor people knowing full well they can’t fight back.

    What kind of government do we have?

    On my unemployment case, I’ve contacted the Attorney General in Indiana – nothing. I’ve contacted the Governor’s office – nothing. I’ve contacted Marty Walsh, the Secretary of USDOL – nothing.

    Hiring a lawyer costs $250.00 an hour. Now someone, please explain to me why we even have a Justice Department in this country?

    The cause is this country was set up for oligarchs by oligarchs to benefit the oligarchy. The last thing they wanted was a democracy. If we had a democracy, the current rulers would have been murdered by now and the wealth taken and divided up among the people.

  3. Two statements in today’s column are worth repeating.

    Christians, especially white evangelical Christians, are much more likely than non-Christians to view poverty as the result of individual moral deficit.

    And: The Missouri legislature was perfectly okay with punishing 28,643 children for their parents’ perceived moral deficiencies.

    Apparently, these so-called Christians have never internalized the statement “Judge not, lest you be judged.” Perhaps that is because they seem to be hung up on the Old Testament, rather than the New Testament.

  4. On this issue there needs to be two sides coming together under the direction of great leadership. Where compassion outweighs financial incentives.
    We need to get people to work for one thing.

  5. Greetings John S. Does your last sentence mean, Get off your lazy ass or does it mean find jobs that meet a person’s skill level?

  6. I take issue with the subtitle of your website: “A jaundiced look at the world we live In.” The word JAUNDICED is unnecessarily pejorative. It appears to function as an apology for the stern judgements contained in the essay — a way of saying “I may be jaundiced, but ….”

    Why not say: “An unblinking look at the world we live in.” That is more truthful, more candid, more accurate.

  7. Trevor Noah once noted that, to a pro-lifer a baby was like a comic book. It only has value while it’s in the wrapper.

  8. Yep, today’s thread is very much in line with several others over the past couple of years on your blog Sheila!

    I know we’ve had this conversation so to speak before.

    So, I’ll reiterate some of the things that I have posted.

    These groups promote an antiabortion agenda but offer no substitute! They can’t approach women and say that the child will be taken care of through healthcare, and that there will be assistance for that child’s care while the women go back to the workplace, or, educational assistance for women to acquire skills to make a more secure life for the parent and child!

    Or, what about the rape issue or the incest issue! I myself have a granddaughter who was a product of rape! But, our daughter had the support of her parents, us! But it’s been labor-intensive, and not an easy row to hoe!
    That being said, that 10-year-old little girl with an IQ of 140, has been a wonderful addition to the family.

    But, everyone doesn’t have the same support network, and, the clinics should be able to provide those supports! Thereby giving the aid to which ever decision a woman decides to make. There should be no judgment by any individual, one way or the other! The people that approach professionals at these clinics, are free moral agents, able to make those decisions on their own especially if they are fully informed of all possible help, as I said, one way or the other!

    But, how is it a shock when you have religious organizations supporting military conflicts, and, religious organizations through that support, having a role in killing their own brothers and sisters of the same religion who happen to speak a different language, or, live on a different chunk of rock on this planet!

    How can you, as a religious person, Roil against healthcare for everyone in this country, allowing people including children to die unnecessarily? How can you roil against food aid? How can you roil against housing? How can you roil against education? How can you roil against programs designed to pull people out of poverty? And, how can you roil against contraception and family planning when these things can prevent abortions from happening by a goodly amount?

    James 1:27
    The form of worship that is clean and undefiled from the standpoint of our God and Father is this: to look after orphans and widows in their tribulation, and to keep oneself without spot from the world.

    At James 1:27 the original Greek word that is translated “to look after” is defined as ‘having a care for, providing for.’ It conveys the idea of visiting someone to bring needed help. Without a doubt, this would be a Christian thing to do and, which show compassion and empathy towards those individuals seeking that help!

    Isaiah 1:17
    Learn to do good, seek justice,
    Correct the oppressor,
    Defend the rights of the fatherless child,
    And plead the cause of the widow.”

    Isaiah 58:7
    It is to share your bread with the hungry,
    To bring the poor and homeless into your house,
    To clothe someone naked when you see him,
    And not to turn your back on your own flesh.

    Job 29:12, 13
    For I would rescue the poor who cried for help,
    Along with the fatherless child and anyone who had no helper.
    13 The one about to perish would bless me,
    And I made the heart of the widow rejoice.

    The words of Christ himself explain his opinion of those who do not keep his teachings, the hypocrites, the liars, the manipulators, and those who call down evil upon their fellow man instead of treating them as neighbors!

    “Now there is a judging of this world; now the ruler of this world will be cast out. And yet I, if I am lifted up from the earth, will draw men of all kinds to me. I have come as a light into the world, in order that everyone putting faith in me may not remain in the darkness. But if anyone hears my sayings and does not keep them, I do not judge him, for I came, not to judge the world, but to save the world. He that disregards me and does not receive my sayings has one to judge him. The word which I have spoken is what will judge him in the last day.” (John 12:31, 32, 46-48.)

  9. The bottom line for pro-birth set is misogyny and control. Women must suffer for the original sin, for the sin of fornication, for breathing…

  10. A bright light has emerged in Texas of all places.

    From the Guardian:

    Texas’s new “heartbeat” measure ranks among the most extreme abortion bans in the US, blocking the procedure as early as six weeks into a pregnancy – before many women and girls even know they’re pregnant. The bill, due to come into force in September, doesn’t include exceptions for rape or incest and allows private citizens to enforce its provisions through what could be a torrent of expensive and time-consuming lawsuits.

    When Smith learned in government class that the hardline policy had been signed into law by the state’s Republican governor, she felt anger and disbelief.

    “I’m a woman, and it directly affects me,” she said.

    When 18-year-old Paxton Smith used her valedictorian address to rail against Texas’s near-total abortion ban last Sunday, she inspired cheers at her Dallas high school, as well as an outpouring of support for her across the country and online.

    Smith had pre-written a speech on how TV and media have shaped her worldview, which had been approved by school administrators. But when it came time to address the graduating class of Lake Highlands high, she switched course.

    “I cannot give up this platform to promote complacency and peace when there is a war on my body and a war on my rights. A war on the rights of your mothers, a war on the rights of your sisters, a war on the rights of your daughters,” Smith told the crowd.

    “We cannot stay silent.”

    She said she had been dreading the address until she walked onstage, when a calm washed over her. Her voice grew stronger and more impassioned as she excoriated those lawmakers who are accused of stealing the bodily autonomy of women across Texas, including her own.

  11. Todd Smekens, When you get some additional information, I would love to know how much Indiana is funneling to these agencies and who they are.

  12. It’s too bad we are not all pro-life and pro-choice. I keep trying to remind myself that pro-birth people truly believe that abortion equals murder. They don’t want to deal with the ambiguous moral dilemma around quality of life issues nor with the right of a woman and her doctor to decide what to do in response to an unexpected pregnancy. I.E. what if the fetus is so deformed it won’t live long after it is born or be so disabled that the child will never have a decent quality of life., what if the mother’s life is endangered and she already has 2 children. It’s all or nothing with pro-birth people.

    The GOP courts the pro-birth people. They have for many, many years now. It’s not just evangelicals, many Roman Catholics are also pro-birth. It’s interesting how Calvin’s idea of predestination led to the belief that homeless people, people in poverty were predestined to be there or that all of them got there through their own poor choices. Those beliefs allow people to deny that the upward mobility in America has been markedly diminished over time.

    I can only hope that the next 2 generations will become pro-choice or at least form a decent compromise in legislation that all can life with.

  13. If pro-lifers really wanted to prevent abortions and the resulting welfare costs of women in poverty who have another mouth to feed, the pro-lifers would demonstrate as much passion to prevent unwanted pregnancies as to prevent abortions. Yet, the pro-life groups that show up at the State House to lobby legislators OPPOSE CONTRACEPTION TOO.

    I can only conclude that they’d rather have the issue of abortion than to prevent them.

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