Most of the women who find themselves debating whether to carry a pregnancy to term are not on the front lines of the war on women’s rights to their bodies – which means that when they open up their phone book or start typing into Google, they may not know that there is a difference between Planned Parenthood and a “Crisis Pregnancy Center” (CPC). CPCs often come adorned with church affiliations, and even Christian sounding names. When life takes scary dips and turns, many of us turn to religion – and women often pick a CPC over another clinic because of that association.
When you call a Crisis Pregnancy Center, the receptionist will tell you that you can come in to talk about the “options” they can offer you – what she won’t tell you is that abortion is not one of them – even though they advertise heavily in phone books and online under “abortion” and “family planning”. At the CPC, you will be given an unnecessary ultrasound, but you won’t be told that the woman wielding the wand is a volunteer, not a trained medical professional. The information that follows is purported to be “educational” but instead is a mix of outright lies about a non-existent abortion-cancer connection, a made-up post-abortion mental health disorder, and even the threat of inevitable infertility due to birth control pills.
These anti-choice outposts are not rare – In fact, according to the Feminist Majority Foundation there are more than 3,500 CPCs in America – outnumbering comprehensive women’s health clinics. Most of them exist as the result of your federal tax dollars through Bush era abstinence education grants – and because they are 501(c)(3) tax exempt organizations.
The federal corporate income tax rate is approximately 35% - which means that having a tax exemption is worth quite a bit of money, even before factoring in the reality that to be a grant recipient, an organization typically must be tax exempt. Federal tax exemption often exempts organizations from state and local income taxes, and paying sales and use tax. Being tax exempt also enables CPCs to accept tax deductible contributions from anti-choice supporters – which reduces the amount of Federal and state income taxes that those donors pay. These governments, which provides necessary services to all their citizens, then must cut their budgets accordingly since they are now receiving less tax revenues.
Under the Freedom of Information Act, a 1996 letter (NSAR 0266, Vaughn # 0266), details why a CPC was denied a 501(c)(3) tax exemption. Why? Tax exemptions are granted based not on the organization’s beliefs, but “upon the method used by the organization to communicate its viewpoint or position to others.” It goes on to say:
The method used by an organization will not be considered educational if it fails to provide a factual foundation for the viewpoint or petition being advocated, or if it fails to provide a development from the relevant facts that would naturally aid a listener or reader in a learning process. The procedure goes on to state that:
The presence of any of the following factors in the presentations made by an organization is indicative that the method used by the organization to advocate its viewpoint or position is not educational:
- 1. The presentation of viewpoints or positions unsupported by facts is a significant portion of the organization’s communications.
- 2. The facts that purport to support the viewpoints or positions are distorted.
- 3. The organization’s presentations make substantial use of inflammatory and disparaging terms and expresses conclusions more on the basis of strong emotional feelings than of objective evaluations. (Inflammatory meaning “tending to arouse strong emotion as passion, anger, or violence” and disparaging to mean “to speak of in a belittling way” according to Webster’s Dictionary).
- 4. The approach used in the organization’s presentations is not aimed at developing an understanding on the part of the intended audience or readership because it does not consider their background or training in the subject matter.
Sound familiar yet? Another document from the IRS (IRS Rev. Proc. 86-43, 1986-2 CB 729) further clarifying exemption under 501(c)(3), says that”an organization may be educational even though it advocates a particular position or viewpoint, so long as it presents a sufficiently full and fair exposition of the pertinent facts as to permit an individual or the public to form an independent opinion or conclusion. On the other hand, an organization is not educational if its principal function is the mere presentation of unsupported opinion.” (emphasis added).
So how can you stop CPCs from committing tax fraud while harassing and misinforming women everywhere? If there is a CPC near you, that you know is spewing false information, harassing women, etc., then first confirm that they are tax exempt using the IRS’s Publication 78. The next step is to notify the IRS – which can be done via letter or Form 3949-A. Your notification can be anonymous – though it may be helpful to the IRS to include your name and contact information, which will be kept confidential. Do not send the IRS a form for every CPC you find listed in Publication 78 – like the boy who cried wolf, sending information that is based only on assumptions and not on fact will only discredit you.
Obviously, attacking these groups’ tax exemptions is only a stop gap measure, to be done in addition to signing petitions demanding an end to their federal funding - but it is one that will cause the CPC financial difficulties that may lead to is closing, since without a tax exemption they are ineligible for tax deductible contributions or grant funding – and at the same time prevent the group from siphoning U.S. tax dollars that should be used to support real health and education initiatives.
IRS Circular 230 Disclaimer: To ensure compliance with IRS Circular 230, any U.S. federal tax advice provided in this communication is not intended or written to be used, and it cannot be used by the recipient or any other taxpayer (i) for the purpose of avoiding tax penalties that may be imposed on the recipient or any other taxpayer, or (ii) in promoting, marketing or recommending to another party a partnership or other entity, investment plan, arrangement or other transaction addressed herein.