America is facing a diaper crisis, and the anti-abortion movement may not be helping

Many families across the United States lack access to essential supplies for their baby’s well-being, including clothing, food and diapers.

The coronavirus pandemic has played a significant role in this crisis, and as households seek help from nonprofit organizations, anti-abortion centers (CAAs) may misrepresent the scope of their services.

In 2019, Heartbeat International, an AAC giant, claims having provided 1.85 million people with free baby supplies, including more than 2 million baby clothes, more than 19,000 strollers and more than 1.2 million packs of diapers. However, Equity Forward dataa responsible organization that produces investigative research related to gender equity and sexual and reproductive health, found inconsistencies with these figures.

“Instead of providing direct material support to people, they use that money for overhead to pay staff salaries, to engage with SEO marketing professionals, to expand their reach to promote themselves, and all kinds of things that don’t provide services to people in need,” Ashley Underwood, director of Equity Forward, told Yahoo Finance. “They exist solely to deter people from seeking abortion care.”

A display of Pampers diapers is on sale in Denver February 16, 2017. REUTERS/Rick Wilking

According to Equity Forward findings, Heartbeat International only provided 1% of customers with a stroller, 1.6% of customers with a car seat and less than a pack of nappies per person.

Heartbeat International did not respond to Yahoo Finance’s request for comment.

Need diapers

Heartbeat International is an interdenominational Christian organization that claims to serve approximately 2,850 nonprofit pregnancy centers, maternity homes, and adoption agencies in more than 65 countries, including 1,722 in the United States. This makes it the largest affiliate network of pregnancy centers in the world.

However, Underwood argued that the organization, in addition to other AACs, was doing more harm than good.

People stand outside the Planned Parenthood Manhattan Health Center in New York, U.S., August 6, 2022. REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton

People stand outside the Planned Parenthood Manhattan Health Center in New York, U.S., August 6, 2022. REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton

“Since June, when the Dobbs decision was released, we’ve certainly seen an increase in rhetoric from anti-abortion centers,” Underwood said. “They’re in the perfect position to help people, but they were around decades before this decision, and we’ve seen that they’re not using that money to help people. A lot of the money, especially l Taxpayer money they receive goes to promoting their own efforts, not serving the communities in which they exist.”

About a third of American families cannot afford the diapers needed to keep their baby dry and clean, according to Layers National Network, which is part of a public health issue known as the need for diapers. Often, the need for diapers can lead to various problems for the baby and the caregiver, affecting not only physical health, but also mental and economic health.

“When caregivers don’t have enough diapers to keep a baby clean, dry and healthy, they are often forced to keep their babies in soiled diapers longer than they should or throw them away and dry used diapers so they can be reused,” Bridget Cutler, founder and co-executive director of Moms Helping Moms, told Yahoo Finance. “As a result, infants and toddlers are at risk for skin infections, open wounds, urinary tract infections and other conditions that may require medical attention.”

Two-year-old Estefania Chacon watches her mother collect free diapers provided by the Chelsea Collaborative, amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, in Chelsea, Massachusetts, U.S., November 25, 2020. REUTERS /Brian Snyder

Two-year-old Estefania Chacon watches her mother pick up free nappies provided by the Chelsea Collaborative. (Reuters/Brian Snyder)

Additionally, nearly all child care providers require parents to provide a daily supply of disposable diapers in order to drop off their child each day, Cutler explained. If parents don’t provide diapers, they can’t go to work or school. Parents who struggle with diapers should “report that they miss an average of four days of work or school per month,” according to Joanne Samuels Goldblum, CEO of the National Diaper Network.

Additionally, households that needed diapers reported higher levels of stress.

“Research has shown that mothers who are unable to provide enough diapers for their child are more likely to suffer from depression“, Cutler said. “Parenting is hard enough without having to constantly stress about meeting your child’s basic needs.”

“Funding these propaganda machines”

Currently, government programs that provide assistance to families in need of diapers are severely limited.

Households are limit to use WIC (the special supplementary feeding program for women, infants and children) or INSTANTANEOUS (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) – the two federal programs used to provide nutritious food to low-income households – to buy diapers.

TANF (Temporary Assistance for Needy Families) is a federal program whose benefits can be used to purchase diapers. However, Cutler said these funds are insufficient because only 23% of families living below the federal poverty level receive cash assistance through TANF.

A separate report from Equity Forward found that at least 10 states have diverted or are currently diverting TANF dollars from families in need to alternatives to abortion (A2A) programs. These programs are publicly funded and created with the goal of reducing abortions and improving pregnancy outcomes.

FY2020 program budget for New Life Center in Elizabeth, a grant recipient in Ohio, an alternative to abortion programs (Source: Equity Forward)

FY2020 program budget for Elizabeth’s New Life Center, an Ohio grantee for alternative abortion programming (Source: Equity Forward)

Public records from the Ohio AAC program obtained by Equity Forward revealed that a majority of TANF funds were used by grant recipients for marketing and overhead costs.

In fact, two Ohio programs — a diaper bank and an anti-abortion center — each received $50,000 in federal government dollars. The Columbus Diaper Bank allocated $30,000 for supplies, while the anti-abortion center, Elizabeth New Life Center, spent just $2,650.

“It is very concerning that a pool of funds like the Temporary Needy Family Assistance is not going directly to needy families,” Underwood said. “It goes to fund these propaganda machines. That’s the best way to describe these anti-abortion centers.”

Underwood emphasized that there needs to be an appropriate system that supports both parenthood and people who are currently pregnant.

“Instead of pumping money into these programs that have been more propaganda than services, we really need to look hard at how we can create an infrastructure that supports parenthood and supports pregnant women, and helps people to be able to make reproductive decisions that are best for them,” she said. “We just don’t have that.”

Sandra is a staff writer for Yahoo Finance. Follow her on Twitter at @srsalathe

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