Many fake clinics operate as non-profits, so they can receive funding from several sources. In Virginia, the majority of fake clinics are privately funded by individual donors, religious organizations, and national anti-abortion umbrella organizations.
In 2018, the Kiem Centers, which operate five fake clinic locations across the Hampton Roads region, reported total revenue of nearly two million dollars from fundraising events, direct contributions, and grants. They also awarded $8,000 to another fake clinic, CareNet Peninsula in Norfolk, to support their general operating expenses.
Powerful Anti-Abortion Networks
The majority of fake clinics are volunteer-run. Some have medically licensed staff onsite, often working as volunteers once or twice a week. Fake clinics can be affiliated with a local religious organization, such as the Catholic Diocese of Arlington, and/or part of a larger anti-abortion network through which they receive funding.
Two of the largest fake clinic networks across the country are owned by CareNet, which lists 47 affiliated fake clinics in Virginia, and Heartbeat International, which lists 48 affiliated fake clinics in Virginia (fake clinics can be affiliated with more than one national organization). Bethany Christian Services operates three fake clinics in Virginia and Birthright International operates five fake clinics in Virginia. These national umbrella organizations also help establish a sophisticated relationship between local fake clinics and state-level, anti-abortion politicians.
CareNet operates a network of 1,100 fake clinics nationwide and in 2019 reported almost $5.5 million in total revenue. Nearly $5-million (86%) of that revenue is funneled back to financially support their affiliates, including those in Virginia. CareNet also offers financial incentives to its affiliates, including “substantial” savings at stores and resources, including office supplies at Staples, tuition discounts at Regent University and Liberty University, and discounted background checks at TrueHire .
Department of Motor Vehicles “Choose Life” License Plates
Since 2009, fake clinics have received funds through a government-sponsored funding stream run through the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV). Through legislation sponsored by former State Senator Ken Cuccinelli, Virginians can purchase a Choose Life license plate (pictured left) and a portion of their purchase will be directed to fake clinics across the state.
The Choose Life license plate in Virginia costs $25.00 and can be purchased online or in-person. After the first 1,000 plates were sold, $15 of each purchase now goes directly to Heartbeat International from the Special Plates Department of the DMV. The DMV reports the total number of license plates sold each month to the Richmond Coalition for Life.
As of 2019, Virginia’s Choose Life plates have either been sold or renewed 44,084 times.with a total of 5,408 Choose Life license plates on our roads. This revenue stream has provided $754,695 to Heartbeat International-affiliated fake clinics in Virginia .
The Choose Life license plate program is a nation-wide effort led by Choose Life America, Inc. The plates are available in 31 states across the country. As of May 2019, the group reported that over $27 million has been funneled to anti-abortion fake clinics throughout the country .
Funding During COVID-19
Under Trump’s anti-abortion stimulus plan, fake clinics are allowed to apply and receive small business loans, but actual abortion providers are purposefully excluded . Opportunistic politicians have continued to use COVID-19 to restrict abortion access on top of other existing financial barriers, such as abortion providers being excluded from using Title X family planning funds. Instead, these funds have been funneled into fake clinics. Additionally, many large and already well-funded anti-abortion networks like Heartbeat International, NIFLA, CareNet, and Save the Storks have cited the virus as a reason to increase donations to keep their fake clinics open and running .
A contribution page for CareNet Peninsula in Newport News, specifically calls for donations to “stop the COVID-19 abortion boom,” part of a larger four-month long campaign to support “care in crisis:”
In reality, the difficulties of navigating healthcare during COVID-19 and existing abortion restrictions have only made accessing comprehensive reproductive healthcare harder to obtain.