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Congressman Tom Cole

Representing the 4th District of Oklahoma

WORLD Magazine: AmeriCorps admits staff in NYC worked as ‘abortion doulas’

April 29, 2016
News Stories

WORLD Magazine - By Laura Finch

AmeriCorps admitted this week that six of its members violated the federal prohibition against using taxpayer funds for abortion by acting as “abortion doulas” for women undergoing the procedure at three centers in New York City.

The AmeriCorps program, created in 1993, provides federal grants and full-time volunteers to community organizations that focus on anti-poverty efforts. The Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS) Office of Inspector General, which oversees AmeriCorps, said the abortion doula activities took place between 2013 and 2015. It placed blame squarely on the National Association of Community Health Centers (NACHC) for authorizing the prohibited activity and failing to follow up on reports of violations. In its report, CNCS also hinted future funding for NACHC, which has received $30 million from AmeriCorps over the last five years, would depend on its willingness to implement reforms.

The word “doula” is Greek for “female attendant,” and the concept isn’t new. Doulas are not certified to deliver babies, as midwives are, but typically perform the role of a childbirth coach. They might aid and encourage a woman all the way through pregnancy, providing emotional support during labor and even home visits for help with things like breastfeeding. Now, certain self-described “full spectrum doulas” are defining that spectrum as “birth, miscarriage, stillbirth, fetal anomaly, or abortion.”

NACHC didn’t deny the illegal activity but immediately shifted blame to the New York agency, funded by an NACHC sub-grant, where the activity occurred. It claimed to have self-reported the activity to AmeriCorps, and said “the sub-grantee in question was removed from NACHC’s refunding application for any subsequent cycle.”

“We did not include that sub-grantee in NACHC’s application to AmeriCorps for the 2016-17 program year,” NACHC chief operating officer Dave Taylor told me. “Therefore that organization would not receive positions under any AmeriCorps grant awarded to NACHC for that period.”

Congressional Republicans would like to cut NACHC’s funding completely.

“Abortion-related procedures should never be funded by taxpayers,” said Rep. Tom Cole, R-Okla., chairman of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies. “Given these disturbing developments, I believe this grantee should be immediately terminated from the HealthCorps program.”

Rep. Diane Black, R-Tenn., was “heartbroken” by the news.

“I have long highlighted the work of our nation’s community health centers as an alternative to the big-abortion business of Planned Parenthood and its related groups,” she said in a statement. “NACHC didn’t just break the rules, they broke trust with the American people.”

The Hyde Amendment prohibits taxpayer-funded abortion, and the latest AmeriCorps reauthorization, passed in 2009, reiterates that ban. That law states no AmeriCorps resource may “provid[e] abortion services or referrals of receipt for such services.” NARAL Pro-Choice America has responded to this case by calling the statute a “gag rule” in a new online petition to repeal it.

This isn’t the first time AmeriCorps members have been caught supporting abortion activities in New York City. In June 2011, a CNCS representative told a concerned congressional committee that a case involving AmeriCorps staff campaigning for Planned Parenthood was fully resolved and that the organization would “disseminate clear reminders about prohibited activities to all grantees.” Apparently the reminders weren’t clear enough.

Online: WORLD Magazine

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