Congressional Committee Investigates Americorps Staffers Breaking Law to Work at Abortion Clinics

National   |   Micaiah Bilger   |   May 25, 2016   |   3:08PM   |   Washington, DC

The service program AmeriCorps was under the spotlight of a U.S. Congressional committee this week after a government watchdog found it was using tax dollars to promote abortions.

The U.S. House Committee on Education and the Workforce held a hearing on Tuesday to question AmeriCorps about the violations and consider what action to take, LiveAction News reports.

In April, news broke that at least six AmeriCorps members escorted pregnant women to abortion clinics in violation of federal grant requirements, according to The Hill. Through the taxpayer funded program, the volunteers provided emotional support and transportation to women seeking abortions in New York City.

Their abortion work was in violation of federal law, which prohibits programs from using taxpayer-funded grants to promote abortions. The Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS), which oversees AmeriCorps, lists abortion among the prohibited activities in the program.

On Tuesday, committee Chairwoman U.S. Rep. Virginia Foxx, R-North Carolina, took the agency to task for failing to hold AmeriCorps accountable to the law.

“For two years, these illegal activities were allowed to continue, completely undetected by the very agency meant to oversee these programs,” Foxx said. “The investigation that began when you finally did become aware of what had happened confirmed that taxpayer funds were used to support unlawful activities, but it also revealed much more.”

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Foxx said the Inspector General who uncovered the abortion violations also found other problems within the program. AmeriCorps members are strictly volunteers, but investigators discovered that some were doing the work of employees at the centers they supported — another violation of the law, she said. Investigators also discovered situations where waste, fraud and abuse were not reported to senior management, she said.

“This disturbing list of unlawful and dishonest practices really makes you wonder: How on earth was this allowed to happen? How were these activities allowed to go on for so long? And, why is the National Association of Community Health Centers still a grantee?” Foxx said.

Foxx said that AmeriCorps has not learned its lesson and referred to another investigation in 2011 that also found the program had violated the law. The congresswoman recommended revoking the program’s grant and conducting a comprehensive review of other grantees to ensure they are complying with the law.

“Regardless of your position on the issue of abortion, the law is the law, and it must be followed,” Foxx said.

Her recommendations did face some backlash from pro-abortion legislators. Here’s more from LiveAction News:

Rep. Alma Adams (D-NC) not only extolled the good work of AmeriCorps, but attacked the hearing itself, saying, “This is all about an attack on women’s reproductive rights.” Adams then launched into her distatse for the House Select Panel on Infant Lives, and other federal committees investigating Planned Parenthood and abortion-related scandals. Adams said that should be the real conversation about wasting money, not some volunteers offering care to women getting abortions.

But Foxx wasn’t buying it. She answered that today’s hearing was in no way about women’s reproductive rights, but, instead, “is about an agency in federal government that is not being held accountable about how it spends money.”

… One theme from the hearing seemed to be that because AmeriCorps does good work in the nation by serving the poor and needy and by offering real health-care services apart from abortion services, and since this violation of the law was only on a ‘small scale,’ it would be wrong to pull the entire grant. If that rhetoric sounds a lot like the arguments about Planned Parenthood, that’s because it is the same argument. In the world of abortion, it’s okay to drink a little poison if the rest of the drink tastes good. Just as the abortion industry is prone to argue in every case of its own wrongdoings, AmeriCorps and its supporters argue that there are too many good services provided by these paid volunteers to pull a whole grant.

The reports did not indicate how much taxpayer money was used or how long the AmeriCorps volunteers were involved in abortion work.

This is the second time in the past few months that government auditors have discovered tax dollars being used for abortions in violation of the law. In Nebraska, state auditors reported that Planned Parenthood illegally used federal tax dollars for abortions, LifeNews reported.