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House Speaker Mike Johnson did work for a 'crisis pregnancy' center that used a van to find pregnant women

Mike Johnson stands at a podium in front of a microphone with the American flag behind him.
Mike Johnson was listed as the bookkeeper for a crisis pregnancy center 2016-2021.Elizabeth Frantz/Reuters
  • Newly elected Speaker Mike Johnson was the bookkeeper for a crisis pregnancy center, IRS forms show.

  • Johnson's team said he only worked with the organization in 2016, before announcing his candidacy.

  • Crisis pregnancy centers have a history of spreading medical misinformation.

Newly elected House Speaker Mike Johnson worked for a crisis pregnancy organization that used a mobile van to target "abortion-vulnerable women" and persuade them not to terminate their pregnancies, according to tax returns filed with the Internal Revenue Service.

From 2016 through 2021, Imagine Life Ministries, Inc. listed Johnson as the Louisiana group's bookkeeper on tax forms filed with the IRS. Johnson's campaign address, as it appears on his website, was also listed on the forms.

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Johnson helped the organization file their legal paperwork in 2016 prior to announcing his congressional candidacy, Corinne Day, communications director for Johnson, told Insider.

Day said Johnson has not been involved since 2016.

"As such, the organization's forms for 2017-2021 should not have listed him, and the Speaker will be requesting the organization correct these forms," Day wrote in an email to Insider.

Imagine Life Ministries could not be reached for comment.

According to an archived version of Imagine Life Ministries' website, the group operated primarily via a large van known as the "Mobile Pregnancy Unit" to seek out pregnant women.

"Going mobile is an [sic] proven method to reach women contemplating abortion," reads the website, adding that the van allowed the group to "operate anywhere abortion-vulnerable women are likely to be — outside of abortion clinics, on university campuses, in rural areas, and at public events."

The van included an exam table, restroom, and ultrasound machine, and offered STI and pregnancy tests.

Crisis pregnancy centers, or pregnancy resource centers, aim to stop people who are pregnant from seeking abortions by promoting adoption and parenting skills.

Many centers exist in a legal gray area, Insider previously reported. Because religious organizations can request state funding, many operate thanks to taxpayer dollars — and they're also often exempt from laws that regulate medical clinics.

Crisis pregnancy centers often appear to offer abortions to draw pregnant people in, but then use high-pressure tactics to shame patients into forgoing an abortion or spread medical misinformation about the procedure, Insider previously reported.

Imagine Life Ministries noted on its website that many women "have never heard of pregnancy centers or the resources offered there."

Johnson never disclosed his work for the organization on any of the eight financial disclosure forms he's filed with the House Clerk since 2018.

Members of Congress are required to disclose any position held at a nonprofit organization regardless of whether they were paid, according to the House of Representatives Committee on Ethics. Imagine Life Ministries, Inc. is a registered nonprofit.

Positions in religious organizations are exempt from disclosure, according to the 2021 disclosure instructions. On all of their tax forms filed with the IRS, Imagine Life Ministries described its
primary purpose as a "mobile pregnancy center that provides free ultrasounds and pregnancy testing."

Tax forms also give nonprofits the option to designate themselves as "a church, convention of churches, or association of churches." Imagine Life Ministries did not designate itself under that category in any filings since its founding.

Johnson did not hold a position in the organization that would require disclosure, his communications director said.

"Speaker Johnson was never an 'officer, director, trustee, partner, proprietor, representative, employee, [or] consultant' for this organization," Day wrote. "Therefore, he was not required to disclose this work."

Johnson, a relatively unknown 51-year-old congressman elected in 2016 who's never chaired a committee, emerged as a dark horse candidate after three weeks of chaos following Kevin McCarthy's ouster.

A devout Christian and social conservative, Johnson has numerous ties to the evangelical right.

Over the past five years, he's been paid more than $120,000 by Liberty University, a private evangelical university in Virginia, for teaching online government courses.

Last year, he championed a bill that would forbid the use of federal funds to promote "sexually-oriented material" to children under the age of 10 — considered by critics to be a national version of Florida's "Don't Say Gay" law.

Because the definition of sexually oriented material is broad and includes "gender identity, gender dysphoria, transgenderism, sexual orientation," the Human Rights Campaign has condemned the bill, calling it the "latest cruel attempt to stigmatize and marginalize the community."

In 2003, Johnson wrote an op-ed advocating for the criminalization of gay sex. A year later, he wrote another piece describing homosexuality as "inherently unnatural" and a "dangerous lifestyle."

October 26, 2023: This story has been updated to include comment from Mike Johnson's communications director sent to Insider after publication.

Read the original article on Business Insider