Madison city officials discriminate against pro-life social services … so much for ‘pro-choice’

You are a young woman, pregnant, afraid, and alone. Powerful forces in the society at large and in Madison in particular encourage you to terminate your pregnancy. Powerful forces, like the Madison Common Council.

A well-established Madison organization called Care Net Pregnancy Center of Dane County sought a low-interest loan of $550,000 from the city’s federally funded affordable housing trust fund to help build a 36-unit apartment building on MacArthur Road on the city’s east side. The proposed $5.5 million Eagle Harbor Apartments would help financially indigent young mothers transition to independent living. The housing would also be available to other low-income families in Madison and Dane County.

Care Net, operating for 28 years in Madison, helps distressed women who choose to bring their babies to term to live happy and successful lives. Yes, the organization is pro-life, and yes, it is faith-based.

That is a no-go in the People’s Republic of Madison. Blasphemy. It deviates from the government-sponsored religion of the taxpayer-financed, conception-to-partial birth sacrament of Abortion on Demand.

Viewpoint bias is clearly the reason that the City of Madison Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) Committee defeated the proposal by a 5-2 vote on Jan. 17. A gaggle of politically correct alders led the crusade to abort human services for lower-income Madisonians who choose life.

“We’re disappointed the decision was made not on the merits but on ideology,” Care Net Center Director Julie Bennett told me.

Madison city government has applied what amounts to a faith-based religious test, in clear violation of the U.S. Constitution. It is religious discrimination. This decision is simply appalling. Even the Madison city attorney says so, although in more muted language.

Among the five voting no on the CDBG committee were its three aldermen: Lauren Cnare, Matt Phair, and Tim Bruer. To ensure that the corpse stays dead, those three withdrew their original sponsorship of the proposal before this Monday’s Board of Estimates meeting, meaning that the full Common Council will never see it.

They did so despite the support of the civil servants in city government and despite a written tongue-lashing earlier Monday from legal counsel Michael May.

Attorney May reminded city decision-makers that “federal regulations provide that religious or faith-based organizations are eligible to receive [these] funds like any other entity and bar the city from discriminating against such organizations.”

“I must state it is difficult to determine the basis on which the CDBG committee determined not to support the application.” (Attorney May’s Jan. 28 letter.)

It may have been difficult to determine the legal basis for denial, but it is easy to determine the political basis.

Ald. Lisa Subeck, in particular, spewed unsubstantiated charges that pregnancy counseling centers in general – and by inference, Care Net Pregnancy of Dane County in particular – engaged in what amounts to a bait and switch, gulling unsuspecting abortion customers into having unwanted babies.

At one time, Subeck earned her paycheck from NARAL Pro-Choice Wisconsin. Her crusade against Care Net is ironic for one who professes to be pro-choice.

In a Jan. 22 letter to Mayor Soglin, Care Net Board President Larry DeWerd said, “Ms. Subeck, as [former] director of NARAL … had a very different agenda than discussing affordable workforce housing. … She used vague references to unidentified pregnancy resource centers to discredit the work and the name of Care Net.”

Care Net’s president asserts that “all medical information used in the clinic has been verified by our local medical director, Dr. Michael Wilson.”

May the record show (as it does) that Ald. Shiva Bidar-Sielaff also fought the affordable housing proposal on religious grounds. She and Ald. Joe Clausius made the motion at Monday’s Board of Estimates to deep-six it. (The alders named here were asked to comment but had not as of this writing.)

If you don’t think the fix was in, DeWerd writes that Care Net was “expressly denied the opportunity to respond to (Subeck’s) allegations.”

 

Committee members were reminded repeatedly during the meeting by city staff that both the discussion about the proposal before them and their decisions with regard to the proposal were required to be on the merits of the proposal itself. City staff advised the committee that the city’s own legal counsel instructed the committee that neither the faith nor the ideology of the applicant could be … considered. Nonetheless, member after member of the committee stated that they could not support the proposal because they do not like the work of pregnancy resource centers in general, clearly denying funds based on ideological reasons. (Read the letter.)

“We are not the people who protest at abortion clinics,” Bennett told Bring It! “It’s about helping women where they are that (particular) day.”

According to its website, Care Net’s residential program:

… supports pregnant single mothers ages 18-26. … We provide a safe and secure environment for mothers to become emotionally healthy and self-sufficient members of the community, while building life skills that will enable each young mom to secure employment, housing, manage money and foster sound decision-making while learning effective parenting skills.

Care Net Development Director Rhonda Thompson tells me her organization will continue to pursue state WHEDA tax credit financing and other funding and that it probably will not bring suit against the city of Madison, but that is a decision yet to be made by Care Net’s board of directors.

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