Kansas bill seeks to boost donations to anti-abortion crisis pregnancy centers

Jonathan Shorman/The Kansas City Star

Kansas Republican lawmakers want to create a generous tax credit to encourage donations to crisis pregnancy centers as the state’s anti-abortion movement continues to grapple with the defeat of a state constitutional amendment that would have allowed an abortion ban.

A measure before the Senate Tax Committee would allow taxpayers to receive a 70% tax credit on donations to the centers, which oppose abortion. More than 50 centers operate across the state, according to Kansans for Life, the state’s leading anti-abortion group.

The tax credit program, which would be capped at $10 million a year, holds the potential to be a financial boon to the centers, some of which currently receive a combined $339,000 a year in state grants and awards. Taxpayers would be allowed to carry forward the credit for up to five years if the size of the donation is more than their total state tax bill.

Abortion rights supporters are critical of the proposal, offered by state Sen. Caryn Tyson, a Parker Republican who chairs the committee. They say that the bill as drafted would ensure qualifying centers must seek to persuade people to not have an abortion.

“The proposed legislation encourages individuals and businesses to donate to crisis pregnancy centers and diverts funds away from legitimate and comprehensive sexual and reproductive health care,” Katie Baylie, director of legislative affairs of Planned Parenthood Great Plains Votes, said in written testimony to the committee.

Planned Parenthood operates three clinics in Kansas that offer abortion – in Overland Park, Kansas City, Kansas, and Wichita. Baylie said the credit would encourage individuals and businesses to donate to crisis pregnancy centers instead of non-profit groups that offer comprehensive sexual and reproductive health care.

Abortion opponents and those who operate the centers said the credit would allow them to provide services to more women. The centers, they say, offer information on parenting and adoption, assist with housing, transportation and things that new parents need, like clothes, diapers and formula.

“The legislation that you are considering, I believe would offer pregnancy clinics significant opportunity to increase donations to help reach more pregnant women,” Donna Kelsey, director of Kansas City Pregnancy Clinic in KCK, told lawmakers.

Korbe Bohac, a first-time mother and client of Insight Women’s Center in Lawrence, told lawmakers as she held her child, Winston, that she was originally unsure about whether to carry her pregnancy to term and unsure how to raise a child. She said classes offered by the center had helped her tremendously. From diapers to car seats, “the center ensures that I have everything I need to keep my baby safe and happy and healthy,” she said.

The proposed tax credit, which resemble programs already in place in Missouri, comes after voters in August overwhelmingly rejected an amendment to the state constitution that would have allowed the Legislature to ban abortion after the U.S. Supreme Court in June overturned the federal right to abortion.

The vote cemented Kansas’ status as a stronghold of abortion access in the center of the country as a number of mostly southern states have enacted total or near-total bans on abortion. Missouri instantly enacted a ban the day Roe fell, though the state had already eliminated nearly all surgical abortions.

Abortion opponents view bolstering crisis pregnancy centers as a way to counteract Kansas’ growing role as a critical access point for abortion. In 2021, 7,849 abortions were reported in the state.

Exact statewide figures for how many individuals receive services from crisis pregnancy centers weren’t available. The Kansas City Pregnancy Clinic performed more than 225 ultrasounds in 2022, Kelsey said.