The Arkansas House on Thursday passed a bill providing a $1 million appropriation for grants to help fund pregnancy resource centers across the state.
Senate Bill 102 passed 79 to 19, with one voting member present.
The bill found itself in the middle of a pro-life debate as Republican lawmakers touted their anti-abortion stance but differed on how to approach funding.
“If we want to be the most pro-life state in the union, we have to be prepared when these mothers come into a facility and they need help,” said Rep. Robin Lundstrum, R-Springdale.
Rep. Gayla McKenzie, R-Gravette, said she was “100% pro-life” but spoke out against the bill, saying she was concerned that using public funds to help centers pregnancy does lead to the attachment of “strings” later.
McKenzie said representatives from pregnancy centers in her district told her they didn’t want funding, mentioning that these centers are supposed to be a ministry and not something funded by the government.
“Their position was that they didn’t ask for that money, we don’t want that money, we’re not going to take that money,” she said. “I remember her saying, ‘It’s a ministry. We understand that with taxpayers’ money, there are chains. We don’t want those chains. “https://www.arkansasonline.com/news/2022/mar/04/arkansas-house -oks-1m-appropriation-to-help-fund/”
Rep. Jim Wooten, R-Beebe, also voiced his opposition to the bill, citing the same concerns as McKenzie.
“We won’t always be here, and I promise you at some point there will be strings attached to that money,” he said. “It’s a ministry. It’s an outreach.”
McKenzie said she also couldn’t vote in good conscience for a bill she said could have been used as a distraction to prevent the introduction of a heartbeat bill at the Texas, which prohibits abortion if a heartbeat is detected.
Lundstrum told the House she had a list of pregnancy centers that told her they needed funding. She said the list includes centers in Benton, Texarkana, Hot Springs, Pine Bluff, West Memphis, North Little Rock, Little Rock and Jonesboro.
“All of these pregnancy centers said, yes, we could use this one-time funding to help new mothers with diapers, resources, and that’s people all over the state,” she said. “If we’re going to be pro-life, we’re going to have to be there on the other side of this life to help them.”
Lundstrum said some pregnancy centers will choose not to accept funding. It’s good, she says, because it’s their choice.
“Nobody is forcing anybody, but we have to be there on the other side with a helping hand,” she said.
Lundstrum said a one-time funding option allows the state to try the measure and see what happens.
“If they are successful, they can choose to come back,” she said. “A lot of them have survived on a dime and made a dollar, so let’s see what they can do. They’ll have to work with the funds that are given to them and see how they do. It’s a process .”
Wooten said he thinks this will be the start of an ongoing funding process.
“We don’t need to fund this request because eventually another group, another set of lawmakers, will be here and they’ll say you’re going to have to do this or do that to get this money,” Wooten said. “…We don’t need to do that.”
Pregnancy centers receiving funding are already established facilities with local funding, Lundstrum said.
Rep. Cindy Crawford, R-Fort Smith, acknowledged some centers don’t want the money, but she said the option had to be there.
“What if that money, for this year, they could buy an ultrasound machine and show them the life of this baby, or if they could take care of their facility that needed a band-aid?” she says. “What if a year of funding helped save babies? »
Crawford also said that if Roe v. Wade is cancelled, the government will have to step up and fund places like these centers.