Pro-life Democrats champion government aid to pregnancy resource centers in Louisiana

Louisiana house of representatives Louisiana legislators are sponsoring legislation to support women in crisis pregnancies by setting aside millions in funding for pregnancy resource centers and other social services. | Credit: Jeffrey Schwartz|Wikipedia|CC BY 2.0

Louisiana legislators are advancing a measure to support women in crisis pregnancies by setting aside millions in funding for pregnancy resource centers and other social services, as part of a bill approved by the Louisiana Senate last month. 

Republican Rep. Jack McFarland and Democratic Sen. Katrina Jackson-Andrews are co-sponsors of the legislation, which puts money set aside for Alternatives to Abortion toward the new Louisiana Pregnancy and Baby Initiative.

The program would increase the total spending on the Alternatives to Abortion program from $1 million this cycle to between $3 million and $5 million, beginning on July 1, the start of the next fiscal year. 

“This bill will ensure that pregnancy and adoption centers that have operated for years in this state receive appropriate funding to help fathers, mothers, and their babies in various areas,” Jackson-Andrews told CNA. “As a pro-life Legislature we must strengthen our commitment to offer aid during pregnancy and after the birth of the child.”

According to the bill, SB 278, the initiative will “act as a statewide social service program to enhance and increase resources that promote childbirth instead of abortion for women facing unplanned pregnancies and to offer a full range of services, including pregnancy support.”

“Currently, Louisiana lags behind other pro-life states in its support for the amazing resources that support moms before and after the birth of their child,” McFarland told CNA in an email. “Together with Sen. Jackson-Andrews and my colleagues, I look forward to enhancing the support for moms and babies through the Louisiana Pregnancy and Baby Initiative.”

“My pro-life convictions compel me to protect the innocent unborn baby and assist mothers in need,” he noted.

The Louisiana Senate passed the bill 34-3 on March 26, and it’s expected to pass in the House. 

The initiative would include parenting classes and baby supplies such as diapers and cribs. It would also provide counseling and care coordination for mothers, referrals, and even classes on budgeting, job training, and stress management. These resources would be available to program participants for up to three years after the child’s birth. 

The program services will not only be accessible for a pregnant mother; it’s meant to serve the biological father of an unborn child or even an adoptive parent of a young child (age 3 or younger).

Currently, abortion is only legal in Louisiana if the life of the mother is at risk, or if the child is diagnosed with a disability in utero or could be stillborn. 

Jackson-Andrews, a pro-life Democrat who spoke at the national March for Life in Washington, D.C., in 2016, is the primary author of the bill. 

She championed an amendment in 2020 that prevented Louisiana from enshrining a “right to abortion” in its state constitution and banned public funding of abortion. The Louisiana Pregnancy and Baby Initiative would be managed by a general contractor who would subcontract with existing nonprofit pregnancy centers, adoption agencies, maternity homes, and social service organizations “that promote childbirth instead of abortion,” the bill noted. 

The money would also go toward marketing expenses so that mothers in need would be aware of the services, McFarland and Jackson-Andrews explained in the bill. 

The initiative also has a transparency provision to require the nonprofit organization overseeing the program to report what services are offered and how many people are served.

Funds from the initiative cannot go toward performing or referring for abortions, nor toward any organizations that promote abortion. 

In addition to McFarland and Jackson-Andrews, authors of the bill include Democratic Sen. Regina Ashford Barrow, Republican Sen. Adam Bass, and others.

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This story was updated at 4:56 p.m. ET on April 16, 2024, with comments from Rep. McFarland and at 10:26 a.m. ET on April 17, 2024, with comments from Sen. Jackson-Andrews.

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