Arkansas General Assembly Approves $1 Million for Arkansas Pregnancy Centers

On Thursday, March 3, by a vote of 75 to 19, the Arkansas House of Representatives made history with their final approval of $1 million in state funding for pregnancy resource centers in Arkansas. The Arkansas Senate previously approved the same funding bill by a vote of 27 to 4.

In speaking for the appropriation, State Rep. Robin Lundstrum and State Rep. Cindy Crawford told lawmakers if Arkansas is going to make abortion illegal, the State needs to step up and provide help for women with unplanned pregnancies.

As part of our long-term plan to reduce the demand for Abortion in Arkansas, in January, we met with Governor Hutchinson along with leaders in the Arkansas Senate and House. Our recommendation was for Arkansas to follow a dozen other states by launching a State-funded program for pregnancy centers. The Governor agreed.  House and Senate leadership drew up the plan and presented it as a part of this year’s state budget in Senate Bill 102.

Approximately, 45 non-profit pregnancy centers are in operation across Arkansas.  Having funds for ultrasound machines and other equipment as well as diapers, formula, maternity clothes, and other supplies will be a game-changer for many clinics.  Funds will be available through the Arkansas Department of Finance and Administration after the new fiscal year begins on July 1.

Last year, we listed this funding for pregnancy centers as one of our goals for 2022.  I am pleased to report that we have achieved that goal—partially.  The next step is that we need to be ready to help pregnancy centers be successful in obtaining those funds without a bunch of strings attached. Here is how we plan to help. 

First, the Department of Finance and Administration will write rules for how to apply for funds and how the funds can be used. As with all rules, they have to take public comments, and the rules have to be approved by the legislature. If they’re not done right, we and others can weigh in and do our part in making the rules work properly.  Second, for any pregnancy center that needs help with navigating the application process, we plan to be there to help them from start to finish.  Our goal is to help pregnancy centers maximize every penny of this money.

Sometimes we forget the larger picture. I am reminded that we are not just funding pregnancy centers. These dollars will save the lives of unborn children.  None of us knows how many, but we’re safe to say that $1 million spent by pregnancy centers will help lots of women decide not to get an abortion.

That’s something to celebrate.

One Year Ago Today the Arkansas Legislature Prohibited Abortion. Here’s What’s Happened Since.

Rep. Bentley presents S.B. 6 before the Arkansas House of Representatives.

It has been exactly one year since the state General Assembly voted to prohibit abortion in Arkansas.

On March 3, 2021, the Arkansas House of Representatives made history when it voted overwhelmingly in favor of S.B. 6 — now Act 309 of 2021 — by by Sen. Jason Rapert (R – Conway) and Rep. Mary Bentley (R – Perryville). The measure previously passed the Arkansas Senate with strong support.

Governor Asa Hutchinson signed the measure into law on March 9, 2021.

This good, pro-life law prohibits abortion in Arkansas, except in cases when the mother’s life is in jeopardy.

Family Council worked closely with Sen. Rapert to pass this good bill that could save the lives of thousands of children, if enforced.

Act 309 was slated to take effect on July 28, 2021. However, the ACLU filed a lawsuit over Act 309, and U.S. District Judge Kristine Baker blocked the law just days before Act 309’s enforcement.

In August, Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge appealed Judge Baker’s decision to the Eighth Circuit.

However, during 2021 the U.S. Supreme Court agreed to take up the Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization case regarding a Mississippi law that prohibits abortion after 15 weeks of pregnancy.

The Dobbs case is a direct challenge against Roe v. Wade. If the U.S. Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade or other pro-abortion rulings in that case, it will affect laws like Act 309.

In light of that, the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals announced in September that it would wait for the U.S. Supreme Court to issue a decision in the Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization case before considering the lawsuit over Arkansas’ Act 309 of 2021.

Right now pro-lifers expect the court to rule in the Dobbs case in June.

If the U.S. Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade, the Eighth Circuit may simply rule that Arkansas is free to enforce Act 309.

If the U.S. Supreme Court only partially overturns Roe, Arkansas has an opportunity to win additional pro-life victories in federal court as it defends Act 309.

Last year Arkansas and other states have passed a record-setting number of pro-life laws.

Most of those laws have gone unchallenged, and they are saving the lives of unborn children in Arkansas at this very moment.

Slowly but surely we are winning the fight against abortion.

Why a Texas-Style Pro-Life Law Might Not Have the Same Effect in Arkansas

The U.S. Supreme Court’s Decision to Allow a Pre-Enforcement Challenge Against the Texas Heartbeat Law Means Courts Might Not Enforce It In Arkansas

The U.S. Supreme Court’s recent handling of Texas’ pro-life “heartbeat” law calls into question whether or not a similar pro-life law would be enforceable in Arkansas.

Last year Texas passed a law generally prohibiting abortion after an unborn baby’s heartbeat is detected. Instead of creating criminal penalties for abortion, Texas’ law lets anyone file a lawsuit against a person who violates the state’s heartbeat law. If an abortionist breaks the law, a person could sue the abortionist for $10,000. Since September, the law has generally stopped abortion in Texas. That is part of the reason why last December several Arkansas lawmakers unsuccessfully attempted to pass a Texas-style pro-life measure during a special session of the General Assembly.

The day after the General Assembly went home from that special session, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the Texas pro-life law could remain in effect in Texas, but left the door open for other legal challenges against the law. Because of that ruling, many people—my staff and I included—at first thought that meant a Texas-style pro-life law could stop abortion if passed in Arkansas. But now we’re beginning to see that courts might not enforce the law in Arkansas the way they have in Texas. Here’s why not.

When the U.S. Supreme Court let the Texas law stand, the court also allowed a type of lawsuit called a pre-enforcement challenge to continue against the Texas law. Pre-enforcement challenges are a way for people to challenge a law in court even if the law isn’t being enforced against them. It’s one of the ways the ACLU and Planned Parenthood challenge Arkansas’ pro-life laws in federal court—often even before a law officially takes effect. Because of the U.S. Supreme Court’s handling of the Texas law, if Arkansas passed a similar pro-life law today, the ACLU and Planned Parenthood could file a pre-enforcement legal challenge against the law before it could take effect. The lawsuit probably would go to U.S. District Judge Kristine Baker in Little Rock. Because of this, Judge Baker would be free to consider the pre-enforcement challenge and block the law in Arkansas. The Eighth Circuit might eventually unblock the law, but that appeal process would take Arkansas’ attorney general several months or longer.

Most legal experts I have spoken with believe the courts will eventually strike down the Texas law, not based on its effect on abortion, but based on its enforcement mechanism that gives anyone in America standing to sue any Texan who performs or is involved in the performance of an abortion. 

So does that mean Arkansas shouldn’t pass a Texas-style pro-life law? Not necessarily.

It just means Arkansas isn’t guaranteed the same outcome as Texas.

Federal courts in Texas are letting the state enforce the heartbeat law right now, but federal courts in Arkansas might not.

In June, the U.S. Supreme Court is scheduled to issue its abortion decision in the Dobbs case from Mississippi. Many legal experts I have spoken with believe the court may overturn Roe v. Wade. If that happens, a Texas-type abortion bill won’t be necessary in Arkansas. Each state would be able to make its own abortion laws. Sen. Jason Rapert and Rep. Mary Bentley, in 2021, passed a ban on abortions in Arkansas except to save the life of the mother. If Roe v. Wade is reversed, almost all abortions will be illegal in Arkansas under that law.