A crisis pregnancy program in Kansas is facing a brighter future under Gov. Sam Brownback, who's made it a priority to fund the effort in his proposed budget.
Kansas Catholic Conference executive director Michael Schuttloffel told CNA that previous state governors had been “hostile” to the local Stan Clark Pregnancy Maintenance Initiative and had instead supported funding for Planned Parenthood.
“So the message Kansas sent was: We wholeheartedly support taxpayer funding for the prevention of pregnancy. But we don’t have a dime for you once you are pregnant and in need,” Schuttloffel said.
“Fortunately, there has been a significant course correction in Kansas with respect to the life issues,” he said.
In a Feb. 14 e-mail, the Kansas Catholic Conference director explained that Gov. Brownback – who was sworn in on Jan. 10 – included $350,000 for the Stan Clark program in his budget proposal last month.
Schuttloffel called the move “a major turning point” for the crisis pregnancy effort, saying that instead “of having a governor who is fundamentally hostile to the program, we have one who is actually asking for it to be funded.”
The initiative is important, he said, “because the Pro-Life movement is about more than just placing restrictions on abortion.”
“It is fundamentally about helping the vulnerable, born and unborn. Helping pregnant women to choose life is critical to the Pro-Life project, which this program does,” he said. “This program is in essence a statement by the state that we want to support pregnant women, we want them to know that they do not have to face a challenging pregnancy alone, and that we want to help them choose life.”
The initiative was first proposed in the 1999 Kansas legislative session. It awards competitive-based grants to not-for-profit organizations to provide an array of social services to pregnant women and, if necessary, for up to one year after their child's birth. Among the services provided are counseling on alternatives to abortion and facilitation of adoption.
Schuttloffel added that the program is administered by the Kansas Department of Health and Environment, Bureau of Family Health, Children & Families and that funding is dependent on annual appropriation by the Kansas Legislature.
He noted that although there have been “legislators who have not been helpful to varying degrees,” major opposition to the program has come from specifically from past governors. “There really aren’t any legislators who have had the nerve to stand up and say they oppose funding for pregnant women in need.”
The pattern, historically, “has been for the Legislature to support the program only to have the governor work against it,” he said.
Although confirmation of the budget proposal won't likely take place until May, “we won’t have to wait and wonder whether the governor will veto the funding,” Schuttloffel said. “We know he supports it.”
Several crisis pregnancy centers across the U.S. have encountered difficulties from pro-abortion lawmakers who've sought to undermine state funding for the centers or increase legislative red tape.
In recent months, the New York Council proposed legislation that would sharply regulate crisis pregnancy centers that do not provide abortion and contraception. A critic called the move “part of a national strategy by Planned Parenthood and NARAL to attack pro-life pregnancy centers.”
Christopher Bell, co-founder with Father Benedict Groeschel of Good Counsel Inc., told CNA last October that similar proposals have “failed miserably” in several other state legislatures, but the proposals have won approval in Washington, D.C., Baltimore, and Montgomery County, Md.