Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith, Rep. Chris Smith & Colleagues Oppose Rule to Restrict TANF Funds Use for Alternatives to Abortions

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-Miss.) and U.S. Representative Christopher H. Smith (R-N.J.-04), chairs of the Senate and House Pro-Life Caucuses, respectively, are leading bicameral opposition to a proposed rule that targets the use of Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) funding by pregnancy centers and alternatives to abortion programs.

Hyde-Smith and Smith led a comment letter signed by 11 Senators and 19 Members of Congress that denounces the proposed Strengthening TANF as a Safety Net and Work Program rule and asks Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Xavier Becerra to withdrawal it immediately.

“Women deserve better than abortion and should receive support when they choose life for their babies.  For decades, pregnancy centers have stood in the gap and generously provided free assistance to women, babies, and families in their moments of need—actions aligned with TANF’s purposes,” the lawmakers wrote.  “The Proposed Rule, however, would undermine the TANF program and threaten to strip millions of dollars in support for pregnant women and their unborn babies through pregnancy centers, maternity homes, and alternatives to abortion programs.  We urge you to withdraw the Proposed Rule immediately.”

In the proposed rule, HHS singles out “entities sometimes known as crisis pregnancy centers or pregnancy resource centers,” which receive funding through “programs that only or primarily provide pregnancy counseling to women only after they become pregnant,” an apparent reference to alternatives to abortion programs.  HHS states these programs “likely do not meet the reasonable person standard because the connection to preventing and reducing out-of-wedlock pregnancies is tenuous or non-existent.”

In their letter, the lawmakers point out that HHS is overlooking the full extent of services offered by the more than 2,700 pregnancy centers across the country, which alone helped nearly two million women and families in 2019.  Alternatives to abortion programs offer services and material assistance to women and families, such as parenting classes, life skills training, care coordination, housing and support services through maternity homes, job search assistance, and more.

“Chillingly, HHS suggests TANF support for pregnancy centers should be steered toward family planning programs more typical of the business models of Planned Parenthood and the abortion industry instead.  Specifically, HHS states TANF funds should be directed to ‘comprehensive sex education, family planning services, pregnancy prevention programs, and community mobilization services for at risk youth that increase access to pregnancy prevention programs for teens,’” the lawmakers wrote.  “This seems to be another attempt by the Biden administration to funnel taxpayer dollars to the abortion industry.”

Senate signatories include:  Hyde-Smith and U.S. Senators Steve Daines (R-Mont.), Mike Lee (R-Utah), J.D. Vance (R-Ohio), Mike Braun (R-Ind.), Roger Wicker (R-Miss.), James Lankford (R-Okla.), Josh Hawley (R-Mo.), John Kennedy (R-La.), Roger Marshall, M.D. (R-Kan.), and Eric Schmitt (R-Mo.).

House members signing the letter include:  Smith and U.S. Representatives Debbie Lesko (Ariz.-08), Michael Guest (Miss.-03), Erin Houchin (Ind.-02), Mary Miller (Ill.-15), Alex X. Mooney (W.Va.-02), Jeff Duncan (S.C.-03), Warren Davidson (Ohio-08), Blaine Luetkemeyer (Mo.-03), John Moolenaar (Mich.-02), Larry Bucshon, M.D. (Ind.-08), James R. Baird (Ind.-04), Jim Banks (Ind.-03), Clay Higgins (La.-03), Keith Self (Texas-03), Garret Graves (La.-06), Robert Aderholt (Ala.-04), and Eric Burlison (Mo.-07).

Susan B. Anthony Pro-Life America, Family Research Council, Americans United for Life, CatholicVote, Heartbeat International, Care Net, National Right to Life, March for Life Action, Heritage Foundation, Ethics and Public Policy Center HHS Accountability Project, Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, Family Policy Alliance, Live Action, Students for Life, and the National Institute of Family and Life Advocates support the lawmakers’ effort.

Read the full letter here.