U.S. Bishops Urge Public to Petition Biden Administration Over Pregnancy Center Fund Rule
The bishops asked the faithful to join them 'in telling HHS to strengthen TANF without taking away support from the good work of pregnancy help centers.'
The U.S. bishops are urging the public to petition the Biden administration to revise a proposal that the bishops say would “unfairly cut off” federal assistance money from going to pregnancy resource centers.
In a statement published Thursday, the bishops called on Catholics to join them in urging the federal Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to refrain from restricting Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) funding available to pregnancy centers.
In a rule change posted to the federal register in October, the Biden administration argued that some states have been using TANF funds “to pay for activities with, at best, tenuous connections to any TANF purpose.”
One of TANF’s purposes, the government said, is to “prevent and reduce the incidence of out-of-wedlock pregnancies.”
Organizations such as “crisis pregnancy centers” or “pregnancy resource centers” sometimes receive funding for that purpose, the government said. But if those initiatives only offer pregnancy counseling to women “after they become pregnant,” then TANF funds for that outreach “likely do not meet” the federal government’s standards.
The bishops’ statement this week said that the proposal “would strengthen TANF in multiple ways, making sure it gets to the people who need it most.” However, “this same proposal could also unfairly cut off TANF funds from pregnancy help centers.”
The prelates, through the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Office of the General Counsel, argued in a petition to HHS that pregnancy centers “may provide information or counseling about chastity or natural family planning, to help prevent future out-of-wedlock pregnancies.”
The bishops asked the faithful to join them “in telling HHS to strengthen TANF without taking away support from the good work of pregnancy help centers.”
Public comments may be submitted to the HHS here. Comments must be submitted by 11:59 p.m. on Dec. 1.
A study published in 2021 by the pro-abortion group the Women’s Law Project said that “at least” 10 states send some TANF funding to pregnancy help centers.
In a statement last month, Arlington Bishop Michael Burbidge — the chairman of the bishops’ Committee on Pro-Life Activities — called the work of pregnancy help centers a “lifesaving ministry” standing in “radical solidarity” with pregnant and parenting mothers and families.
Bishop Burbidge said that “when women in challenging circumstances do not know where else to turn, the loving staff and volunteers at pregnancy help centers embrace them with empathy and service.”
Pregnancy help centers “provide a spectrum of care, resources, and material goods to support new mothers,” Bishop Burbidge said, including diapers and layettes, babysitting and career services, referrals for housing and food assistance, and personal mentorship and support, as well as medical services, including ultrasounds and prenatal and postnatal care.
“Often, there is nowhere else a mother in need can go for this kind of comprehensive assistance,” the bishop said.
“The practical, loving service that pregnancy help centers offer extends far beyond the birth of the child, with relationships between mothers and help centers continuing for years.”
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