Arkansas groups seek more than $275,000 total from state fund aimed at encouraging birth

By: - August 29, 2022 6:04 pm
A pregnant woman on a couch talking to another person.

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This story was updated on Aug. 31, 2022.

Twelve Arkansas pregnancy resource centers are among 16 groups that applied for a share of the state’s $1 million grant program created this year to help fund crisis pregnancy centers, adoption agencies and maternity homes.

The other applicants include an adoption agency, a maternity care home, a West Memphis nonprofit and an Oklahoma-based organization that says it helps pregnancy centers and drug rehabilitation obtain government funding, according to data from the Arkansas Department of Finance and Administration.

The application period opened Aug. 1 and ended Friday. As of Aug. 17, no one had applied for the money aimed at helping those facing unintended pregnancy and encouraging them to give birth, said Scott Hardin, spokesman for the finance department.

Only three organizations had applied as of Friday morning and the other 13 had applied by the end of the day, Hardin said. The influx of applications came after some pregnancy center directors throughout the state expressed concerns about the stipulations of the grant.

Oklahoma-based TruthWorks applied for the full $1 million available, while the requests from the other 15 totaled $275,991.21, according to data Hardin provided.

TruthWorks is an organization that helps pregnancy centers and drug rehabilitation centers receive government funding “by rigorously monitoring how dollars are spent, while ensuring the separation of private (faith-based services) and reimbursable services from the government,” according to its website.

It requested the program’s total $1 million and was one of three applicants whose requests did not total exactly or nearly $40,000, according to the data.

The 16 organizations that applied for the grant are:

  • The Cradle Maternity Support Center, Berryville: $5,880
  • 1st Choice Pregnancy Resource Center, Hope: $10,501
  • Hope of the Delta Center, Pine Bluff/Stuttgart/West Memphis: $32,225.00
  • Hannah Pregnancy Resource Center, Camden/El Dorado/Magnolia: $39,510
  • Pregnancy Resource Center for Southwest Arkansas, Arkadelphia: $39,954.71
  • Caring Hearts Pregnancy Center, Little Rock/North Little Rock: $39,960
  • Arkansas Baptist Children & Family Ministries, Little Rock: $39,962.50
  • Open Arms Pregnancy Center, Huntsville: $39,998
  • Acts of Hope, Blytheville: $40,000
  • HopePlace, Newport: $40,000.00
  • Changepoint Pregnancy Care & Parenting Center, Hot Springs: $40,000
  • New Beginnings Pregnancy Center, Ash Flat/Benton: $40,000
  • St. Joseph’s Helpers of Pulaski County d/b/a Arkansas Pregnancy Resource Center, Little Rock: $40,000
  • Heart to Heart Pregnancy and Family Care Center, Fort Smith: $40,000
  • PLUM Foundation, West Memphis: $40,000
  • TruthWorks LLC: $1,000,000

The PLUM Foundation is a West Memphis-based nonprofit with a mission “to revitalize and develop impoverished communities,” according to a 2020 news release from the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences. 

There are more than 50 crisis pregnancy centers in Arkansas, according to Arkansas Right to Life. Some centers are funded solely by donations, according to their websites.

Many of the organizations are religiously affiliated, and some center directors said earlier this month that they would not apply for the grant. They said they feared that accepting government money could restrict their religious missions even if the money would help them expand their services.

Republican state leaders have held up the centers as critical now that abortion has been almost entirely outlawed in Arkansas following the U.S. Supreme Court’s June ruling that overturned Roe v. Wade.

The grant program’s specific goal is to help pregnant Arkansans give birth regardless of whether the organization or the client practices any religion, so the money can only be used for non-religious services, Hardin said in an Aug. 10 email.

Gov. Asa Hutchinson and other state leaders had encouraged pregnancy centers to apply for the grant.

“The fact that 16 centers have requested assistance demonstrates the importance of this grant money going to increase access to services as a result of crisis or unwanted pregnancy,” Hutchinson said Monday in an emailed statement.

Hutchinson signed Act 187 of 2022 creating the grant program in March. The law lists the facilities eligible for grant funding as “crisis pregnancy centers,” maternity homes, adoption agencies, and “social service agencies that provide material support and other assistance to individuals facing an unintended pregnancy to help those individuals give birth to their unborn children.”

Grant-eligible organizations “[do] not perform, prescribe, provide referrals for or encourage abortion, or affiliate with any organization that performs, prescribes, provides referrals for, or encourage abortion,” the law states.

Correction: Due to incorrect information provided by a state official, an earlier version of this story misidentified the organization that requested the full $1 million allocated to the grant program.

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Tess Vrbin
Tess Vrbin

Tess Vrbin came to the Advocate from the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, where she reported on low-income housing and tenants' rights, and won awards for her coverage of 2021 flooding and tornado damage in rural Arkansas. She previously covered local government for The Commercial Dispatch in Mississippi and state government for the Columbia Daily Tribune in Missouri.