Government & Politics

Missouri bill would extend tax credit for donations to pregnancy resource centers

A Walk for Life in 2014 benefited Life Choice Center, a pregnancy resource center in Harrisonville.
A Walk for Life in 2014 benefited Life Choice Center, a pregnancy resource center in Harrisonville. File

Donors to pregnancy resource centers in Missouri will continue to receive a tax credit under a bill heard Tuesday in a Senate committee.

The tax credit, which is estimated to cost the state no more than $5 million, would expire in 2020. The bill extends it to 2026. The tax credit also applies to donations to maternity homes.

The centers have been controversial among pro-choice supporters, who say they spread misinformation about reproductive health and limit access to contraceptives.

The bill also includes language to tighten the definition of a maternity home. The new language specifies that maternity homes cannot be hospitals or surgical centers and cannot perform childbirths or abortions, or refer women to abortions.

Current law specifies a maternity home as a place that provides housing and assistance to “women who are carrying their pregnancy to term.”

Proponents of the bill said the tax credit allows for continued support of poor and vulnerable women experiencing unplanned pregnancy.

Mary Chant of the Missouri Coalition of Children’s Agencies said the tax credit allows the coalition “to generate local dollars to help bridge the gap between what the cost of care is and what the need is.”

But others, such as Alison Dreith of NARAL Pro-Choice Missouri, opposed the tax credit, saying the centers do not inform women of their full range of health and reproductive options.

A report by Dreith says pregnancy centers “lie, shame and intentionally mislead women about their health options.”

There are 69 pregnancy resource centers in Missouri.

Lisa McIntire is the CEO of Pregnancy Care Center in Springfield. She said most of the resources the center offers are made possible by relatively small monetary donations.

McIntire said about 98 percent of donors give less than $5,000. Tax credits allow her resource center to continue to run, she said.

“These are everyday hardworking Missourians who want to impact families in tangible ways,” McIntire said. “And by and large that’s where we see the tax credit.”

McIntire’s center provides pregnancy testing, ultrasounds, counseling and a variety of classes and fatherhood resources.

It doesn’t offer abortion referral. In many cases, pregnancy centers also don’t offer contraceptives.

Dreith said the centers’ policies leave women without knowledge of their full range of options. She also said she opposed the “religious nature of some of the pregnancy resource centers.”

For example, Pregnancy Care Center has a section on its website proclaiming its anti-abortion mission and vowing to help protect the “sanctity of human life.”

“God designed life, and whatever he has created is to be cherished,” the site says. It names one of the Pregnancy Care Center’s missions as to apply “God’s healing salve of grace to deep wounds.”

Dreith also said the centers often give incomplete or inaccurate information, such as telling women that contraceptives and abortions increase the risk for infertility or that abortions increase the risk of breast cancer.

These claims have been debunked by the Mayo Clinic and the American Cancer Society, respectively.

Currently donors who give at least $100 can claim a 50 percent tax credit for contributions to pregnancy resource centers. The upper limit per year is a $50,000 credit, but a donor could carry an excess credit into the next four fiscal years.

The Senate Economic Development Committee didn’t vote on the bill Tuesday.