Numerous Christian anti-abortion groups received millions of dollars in forgivable loans from the federal coronavirus aid program the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP). Fortunately, money from this program also went to pro-choice, reproductive rights groups. Notably, Planned Parenthood received $80 million in PPP loans.
This allocation of taxpayer-backed dollars comes in the context of a pandemic that has limited reproductive rights and abortion access everywhere, as many states have used coronavirus as an excuse to restrict access to these services – see Texas, Ohio, Louisiana, Kentucky, Alabama, Wisconsin, and Oklahoma.
One of the Christian rightwing groups that received funding is the American Family Organization, an anti-abortion, homophobic conservative organization, which has been described as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center. In addition, the American Center for Law & Justice, an anti-abortion group led by Trump’s personal attorney Jay Sekulow, has also received funding.
Moreover, the Small Business Administration (SBA), the agency in charge of the PPP, has attempted to take back loans from Planned Parenthood following Republican criticism. The same attempts have not been made with the Christian anti-abortion groups. Frederick Clarkson, an expert on America’s religious right, stated that this incongruity “is absolutely a double standard” and “an egregious violation of ethical norms.” He also emphasized the unprecedented nature of this funding, saying “What we’re seeing with this is a lightyear leap into direct government financing of major Christian right political entities on a scale we’ve never seen before”.
In May, the SBA sent a letter to a Planned Parenthood affiliate in Delaware, explaining that they are “a local affiliate of Planned Parenthood Federation of America,” and therefore “ineligible for a PPP loan under the applicable affiliation rules and size standards, consistent with Congressional intent.”
In response to the SBA’s actions, Jacqueline Ayers, VP of Government Relations & Public Policy at Planned Parenthood, stated “This is a clear political attack on Planned Parenthood health centers and access to reproductive health care. It has nothing to do with Planned Parenthood health care organizations’ eligibility for COVID-19 relief efforts, and everything to do with the Trump administration using a public health crisis to advance a political agenda and distract from their own failures in protecting the American public from the spread of COVID-19”.
Sources: Feminist Newswire 3/24/20, Feminist Newswire 4/27/20, Feminist Newswire 4/22/20, Feminist Newswire 4/3/20, Feminist Newswire 4/1/20, The Wall Street Journal 5/22/20, The Guardian 7/8/20, CBS News 5/22/20, Planned Parenthood 5/20/20