Government officials and pro-life nonprofits in Kansas are gearing up to implement the state’s innovative Alternatives to Abortion program, an initiative that pro-life legislators passed in spite of the Kansas governor’s veto of it.

The measure, enacted into law earlier this year, is meant to serve as “a statewide program to enhance and increase resources that promote childbirth instead of abortion to women facing unplanned pregnancies.”

The program will “offer a full range of services, including pregnancy support centers, adoption assistance, and maternity homes” via state funding. 

The legislation was initially rejected in a line-item veto by state Gov. Laura Kelly, a vocally pro-abortion Democrat; Kelly argued at the time that the program would “provide taxpayer funding for largely unregulated pregnancy resource centers.” The plan, she said, was “not an evidence-based approach or even an effective method for preventing unplanned pregnancies."

The Republican-led state Legislature subsequently overrode the governor’s veto. Jeanne Gawdun, the director of government relations for Kansans for Life, told CNA that pro-life activists worked directly with the Legislature to draft the language of the bill. 

“We did research last year to look at different states, what they had in place already for funding of pregnancy resource centers, maternity homes, adoption centers, those types of things,” Gawdun said. 

“We were able to get some of our pregnancy resource centers to come up and testify in support of the legislation regarding some of the things they could do with the funding,” she said.  

“They are really supported by private donations, so to have any kind of state funding would be of tremendous benefit for them, to increase the number of hours they’re open, to hire additional personnel, even to expand their facilities.”

“We know from national polls that Americans very strongly support pregnancy resource centers,” she continued. “It’s just overwhelming. So we knew Kansans were with us on that.” But “we knew it was going to be a tough thing because we sadly have a very very strongly pro-abortion governor,” she added. 

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The state opened the program’s bidding process last week. Clint Blaes, a spokesman for state Treasurer Steven Johnson, said the role of the state treasurer’s office in the program “is limited to conducting the request for proposals process and contracting with a nonprofit organization to promote and provide the services enumerated in the bill.” 

“That [request for proposal] has now been issued and is scheduled to close on Aug. 16,” he added. “Once the RFP closes, we hope to quickly select a qualified organization so they may begin their work.”

Johnson’s office had previously indicated his support of the program. Following Kelly’s veto of the measure in April, Johnson said in a statement that he was “disappointed” at the governor’s rejection of the initiative, arguing that the governor was wrong to suggest that the treasurer’s office would be “overseeing” the pro-life effort.

“Our office has talented staff with many years of experience in the state procurement process who can easily manage the selection of an organization to fulfill the requirements of this provision,” Johnson said at the time. 

Also included in the legislation establishing the program is the creation of a public awareness campaign, one that would “include the development and promotion of a website that provides a geographically indexed list of alternatives to abortion services and available subcontractors.”

The program could utilize “television, radio, outdoor advertising, newspapers, magazines, other print media, and the internet and other means,” the law states. 

Gawdun said researchers as part of the development of the program examined the amounts of funding that other pro-life campaigns have received in other states.

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“Different states have funding,” she said. “Ours is $2 million.”

“It’s not a huge amount,” she said, “but it’s better than we’ve ever had.”