16 Arkansas pregnancy resource centers apply for share of $1 million in state funds

Sixteen Arkansas pregnancy resource centers have applied for a share of $1 million in state funding.

Pregnancy resource centers are nonprofit organizations that educate women about alternatives to abortion and provide free pregnancy tests, medical referrals and infant supplies. The resource centers are largely funded through donations, with some being affiliated with faith-based groups.

With abortion banned in Arkansas, officials have said they anticipate pregnancy centers and other nonprofit organizations will take on a larger role in assisting mothers.

In 2019, the Arkansas Legislature passed a “trigger law” banning abortion except when necessary to save the mother’s life. The law did not take effect until June, after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, clearing the way for states to ban abortion. After the ruling, Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge certified the state’s abortion trigger law.

In March, the General Assembly set aside $1 million in rainy-day grant funds for pregnancy resource centers. The state closed applications for grant funding Friday.

According to the Arkansas Department of Finance and Administration, the list of pregnancy resource centers, and the amounts each applied for, are:

• TruthWorks LLC, $1,000,000.

• Acts of Hope, Inc., $40,000.

• Hope Place Newport, $40,000.

• PLUM Foundation, $40,000.

• Changepoint Pregnancy Care & Parenting Center Inc., $40,000.

• New Beginnings Pregnancy Center, $40,000.

• St. Joseph’s Helpers of Pulaski County, $40,000.

• Heart to Heart Pregnancy and Family Care Center, $40,000.

• Open Arms Pregnancy Center, $39,998.

• Arkansas Baptist Children & Family Ministries, $39,962.50.

• Caring Hearts Pregnancy Center, $39,960.

• Pregnancy Resource Center for Southwest Arkansas, $39,954.71.

• Hannah Pregnancy Resource Center, $39,510.

• Hope of the Delta Center, $32,225.

• First Choice Pregnancy Resource Center of Hope, $10,501.

• The Cradle, the Maternity Support, $5,880.

Shelley Lewis, director of St. Joseph’s Helpers of Pulaski County, said the $40,000 in grant funding her organization applied for would go toward a marketing campaign about the free services it offers.

“We have some planned expenses going into the new year, and that [grant funding] would be helpful,” Lewis said.

While some Republican lawmakers had concerns that state funding could threaten the independence of faith-based groups, funding for the nonprofit centers passed easily in the Republican-controlled Legislature.

Lewis said she didn’t have concerns about asking for grant funding for St. Joseph’s Helpers of Pulaski County, which is affiliated with the Catholic Church.

There were 3,133 abortions in Arkansas in 2021, according to the state Department of Health.

The end of legal abortion in the state has led to renewed discussion about maternal healthcare in the state, with Arkansas having the fourth-highest infant mortality rate in the nation, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

With the state’s abortion ban in effect, Gov. Asa Hutchinson said there needs to be an “increased level of investment and support” for mothers.

“The need has increased, obviously, with the expectation we’re going to have more live births, more children in need, more moms that need assistance,” Hutchinson said during a news conference earlier this month.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services announced Monday that it has awarded $2 million in Arkansas for maternal healthcare. The funds will be divided evenly between the University of Arkansas, which will use the funds to create a maternal-health task force, and CHI St. Vincent to improve maternal care in rural communities.

The funding is aimed at improving access to maternal and obstetrics care, particularly in rural areas.

“To make meaningful change, we need to center our work on the individuals and families we are serving, and that is what today’s investments aim to do,” said Carole Johnson, administrator of the federal Health Resources and Services Administration, in a news release. “The Biden-Harris Administration is committed to prioritizing equity and reducing the unacceptable disparities in maternal and infant health.”