This story was first reported by Louisiana Illuminator and republished with permission.
Gov. John Bel Edwards and Louisiana lawmakers overwhelmingly approved a state abortion ban last year. But so far, the governor hasn’t proposed more money for programs to help pregnant people and vulnerable children in the wake of those restrictions.
Edwards’ latest budget proposal doesn’t include new money or services aimed at filling the vacuum left by the abortion prohibition. Instead, the governor said he would get behind a proposed tax credit that would benefit anti-abortion pregnancy crisis centers, controversial facilities accused of providing misleading medical information.
Last week, the governor said his staff is working with Senate Speaker Pro Tempore Beth Mizell, R-Franklinton, on Senate Bill 41. The legislation would provide an income tax break of up to $5,000 per individual or business to cover 50% of a donation made to an anti-abortion pregnancy crisis center.
The tax break would be capped at $5 million statewide annually, though the unclaimed tax credit availability could also be rolled into future state budget cycles. Donations made between Jan. 1, 2024, and Dec. 31, 2030, would be eligible.
“This is a law for maternal health. Period,” Mizell said in an interview. “We don’t need to create a new entity. The [pregnancy crisis centers] already have a role in the community.”
Pregnancy crisis centers have myriad critics. Some of the faith-based organizations have falsely claimed abortion increases a person’s risk for breast cancer and infertility and equated emergency contraception to abortion, according to Lift Louisiana, an abortion rights advocacy organization.
Lift Louisiana also says the centers suggest they are akin to medical facilities, but they often don’t employ nurses or doctors and refuse to administer birth control.
Pregnancy crisis centers already receive direct support from the state. Louisiana has transferred federal money earmarked for low-income families — through the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program — to the centers for years. In the current budget cycle, the state has allocated over $2 million to these organizations.
Other tax credits have also been proposed in response to the state’s abortion ban.
Sen. Katrina Jackson, D-Monroe, wants to expand an existing child tax credit to pregnant people with fetuses that have a heartbeat — referred to as “unborn children” — in Senate Bill 105.
Rep. Rick Edmonds, R-Baton Rouge, has suggested a $5,000 tax credit in House Bill 443 for families who adopt children under the age of 18. If the $5,000 credit exceeds the adoptive family’s tax liability, the state would give the family the balance of that money.
Rep. Beau Beaullieu, R-New Iberia, has proposed a $5,000 tax credit for families who adopt infants in House Bill 386. Like Edmonds’ bill, if the credit exceeds the adoptive family’s tax liability, they would receive the balance from the state.
Beaullieu’s legislation would also allow for individuals, companies and entities such as trusts to receive a tax credit worth up to $50,000 when they make donations to organizations that prevent child abuse, provide parenting classes to fathers, give books to low-income households and assist families of children with disabilities or chronic illnesses. The credit would have a $10 million cap annually statewide.
“I wanted to make sure we didn’t just focus on one aspect of life,” Beaullieu said. “This is putting some of our dollars where Louisiana’s intentions are.”
Other conservative states with strict abortion bans are looking at similar tax credits, though some are also proposing large amounts of direct funding for crisis pregnancy centers that Louisiana doesn’t currently have under consideration.
Last week, the Texas House of Representatives approved a state budget plan that included $80 million in public money for crisis pregnancy centers. Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee proposed a $100 million grant program for anti-abortion centers earlier this year.
Florida’s proposed six-week abortion ban also comes with $30 million to expand programs that provide access to birth control, parenting classes and pregnancy programs.
Several other conservative states, including Mississippi, also adopted a Medicaid extension for postpartum care this year in response to their abortion bans, which Louisiana already did in 2022.
Shortly before the abortion ban took effect last year, Louisiana agreed to lengthen the amount of time a person could stay on Medicaid after giving birth from two to 12 months.
“We were one of the first states in the nation to do that,” Edwards said during an interview last week.