Austin, Texas In an experiment that's opening a new front in the culture wars, a growing number of states are paying anti-abortion activists to counsel women with unplanned pregnancies.
At least eight states - including Florida, Missouri and Pennsylvania - use public funds to subsidize crisis pregnancy centers, Christian homes for unwed mothers and other programs explicitly designed to steer women away from abortion. As a condition of the grants, counselors often are barred from referring women to any clinic that provides abortions; in some cases, they may not discuss contraception either.
Most states still spend far more money subsidizing comprehensive family planning, but the flow of tax dollars to anti-abortion groups has surged in recent months, as grants took effect in Texas and Minnesota.
The trend alarms abortion-rights supporters, who assert that the funds would be better spent - and would prevent more abortions - if used to expand access to birth control. But to anti-abortion activists such as Nancy McDonald, the funding is practical and symbolic, a way of putting the state's stamp of approval on their work.
"It's a subtle thing," said McDonald, who runs five crisis pregnancy centers in south Florida. "But people seem to think if you're affiliated with the state, you must be good."
In Texas, the state reduced grants to a Planned Parenthood clinic in downtown Austin - and began sending some of the money instead to the Catholic diocese a block away.
There, counselors can collect $1.05 in public funds for every minute they spend encouraging women and teens not to abort.
Crisis pregnancy centers have received tens of millions of dollars in the last six years from the federal government, mostly to support abstinence education.
On the state level, Florida, Minnesota, Nebraska, North Dakota and Texas approved funding in 2005. Louisiana, Missouri and Pennsylvania have longer-running programs. Arizona and Kansas have offered one-time grants to anti-abortion groups.
But the vast majority of states still send grants to Planned Parenthood - in amounts that dwarf the funding for anti-abortion activity. Last year, Planned Parenthood received $80 million from states, plus another $200 million from the federal government.
Tax dollars going to Planned Parenthood do not pay for abortions; they cover birth control, gynecological exams, cancer screening and treatment for sexually transmitted diseases.