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Arkansas lawmakers OK $1M for pregnancy resource centers

March 3, 2022 GMT

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — Arkansas lawmakers approved setting aside in $1 million in state funds Thursday for private pregnancy resource centers that discourage pregnant women from getting an abortion.

The majority-Republican House approved by a 75-19 vote legislation creating a grant program for the centers, which provide services to women with unintended pregnancies but do not perform abortions or refer women to abortion providers. The Senate approved the measure a day earlier, and it now heads to GOP Gov. Asa Hutchinson’s desk.

The measure was approved with two House Republicans joining Democrats in opposing the one-time funding for the facilities. GOP opponents noted that some of the centers in the state have said they don’t want the funding, and worried that the state could make the money conditional.

“We do not need to fund this request because, ultimately, we’ll come back and another set of legislators will be here and they’ll say, ‘you’re going to have do this or you’re going to have to do that,’” Rep. Jim Wooten, one of two Republicans to vote against the bill, said before the vote.

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The funding increase comes after a wave of abortion restrictions enacted in Arkansas last year, including a near-total ban on the procedure that’s been blocked by a federal judge.

Arkansas lawmakers this year have tabled efforts to enact a ban modeled after Texas’ restrictive law. Abortion opponents in the Legislature have split over whether to follow Texas’ lead while they await a ruling from the U.S. Supreme Court that could overturn or weaken the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision that legalized abortion nationwide.

Republican Rep. Cindy Crawford cited the possibility of Roe being overturned as a reason for funding the centers.

“If at some point Roe v. Wade is overturned, we’re going to have to step up and fund places like these centers to be able to reach out to all those women who are now going, ‘I need help,’” Crawford said.

Similar facilities have received tens of millions of tax dollars across the country. An Associated Press tally last month based on state budget figures revealed that nearly $89 million has been allocated to such centers across about a dozen states this fiscal year.

Under Arkansas’ proposal, the grants are also available to crisis pregnancy centers, maternity homes, adoption agencies or other social services agencies. The facilities have to apply for the grants under the proposal.