State lawmakers look to permanently fund pregnancy support centers

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WJHG/WECP) - Proposed legislation at the state capitol would make permanent $4 million in state funding for pregnancy support centers.

Women's advocates say the often religiously-affiliated businesses undermine a woman's right to choose.

On January 22, 45 years ago the U.S. Supreme Court decided women have the right to an abortion. Legislation moving in the state capitol would build funding for pregnancy support centers into the base budget. It now comes from one-time revenue. The permanency worries pro-choice advocates.

"It gives away our tax money to clinics that are spreading lies about abortion, and they're demeaning young women," said Barbara Devane with the Florida National Organization for Women.

Ryan Sprague runs the Pregnancy Help and Information Center in Tallahassee. He says centers like his offer women help through a pregnancy.

"Any number of classes that I think everybody, whether you're pro-choice or pro-life or don't care, you would say is a good thing for education for a mom to get," said Sprague.

During committee meetings, some young women described feeling pressured.

There have been no formal complaints received by the state against the centers run by Florida Pregnancy Care Network, which holds the contract.

The centers say women are free to leave at anytime and go to other clinics like Planned Parenthood that offer abortions and contraception.

Sprague says while the centers do offer religious materials upon request, they don't bill the state for those visits.

"When we do a class on car seat safety, we can invoice the state for that class. If an hour later we do a class on interpreting the Bible we can't invoice the state for that class," he explained.

More than 45,000 Floridians were served by 105 pregnancy centers around the state in 2016.

The Senate is expected to vote on the legislation later this week. If passed its next stop would be the governor's desk.