State Capitol Week in Review – October 1, 2022

LITTLE ROCK – In the fiscal session earlier this year the legislature appropriated a million dollars for pregnancy resource centers.


The state has awarded grants totalling about $455,000 to 14 centers. Because $545,000 has still not been awarded, the Department of Finance and Administration will open a second round of applications in October.


The department will accept applications for 30 days. There will then be a 30-day review period, so the second round of awards should be announced by late November or early December.


Act 187 of 2022 defines pregnancy resource centers as organizations that seek to provide services to women facing unintended pregnancies. The purpose is to encourage them to give birth.


No organization qualifies if it makes referrals for abortions or is affiliated with an organization that performs abortions.


Grants are available for centers that traditionally have been known as crisis pregnancy organizations. Also, adoption agencies, maternity homes and social service agencies qualify if they provide material support and assistance to pregnant women, in order to help them with delivery of their babies.


In a Mississippi case known as Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, the U.S. Supreme Court in June overturned Roe v. Wade, eliminating the constitutional right of a woman to have an abortion.


Arkansas had a “trigger law” in place, Act 180 of 2019. It is called a “trigger law” because it was written to take effect in the event the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade. When that happened, the state attorney general certified Act 180 and said that abortion was illegal in Arkansas except to save the life of the mother.


The attorney general also said that Arkansas was now the most pro-life state in the nation.


Legislative funding of pregnancy resource centers was in anticipation of the Supreme Court decision overturning Roe v. Wade. The decision was expected to increase the number of unwanted pregnancies in Arkansas, and more young women will need help.


Faith-based organizations are eligible for grants, and accepting a grant will not restrict the group’s ability to support religious activities. However, the money must be used to help pregnant women and may not be used to promote religious activities.


Grant funds may not be used for food and beverages, such as at a baby shower. It can be spent on advertising.


Grant money can be used to hire staff, but only if the staff person assists pregnant females. If the staff person has other duties, such as supporting religious activities, the position must be “split.”


For example, if half of the staffer’s time is dedicated to supporting religious activities, then half of that person’s salary must come from a source other than the state grant.


Pregnancy centers can use the grant money to contract with health care professionals, if the medical services provided are to help pregnant females.


To qualify for a grant, the organization must be physically located in Arkansas. The finance department rejected one application because it was submitted by an organization that applied for the entire $1 million and is not located in Arkansas.


The awards to the 14 pregnancy centers ranged from $5,880 to $40,000. Many were between $30,000 and $40,000.