As an investigation exposing illegal second-trimester abortions at three Florida Planned Parenthood clinics continues to grab the lead, women facing unexpected pregnancies in the Sunshine State will have increased access to pregnancy help in the coming year.
That’s because a group of pregnancy help organizations in the state participating in the Florida Pregnancy Support Services Program has seen the state legislature increase its funding for pregnancy help double for the coming year from $2 million to $4 million.
The funding, which has sat at $2 million since it was first introduced in 2006 by then-Governor Jeb Bush, is distributed among 83 of the more than 250 nonprofit life-affirming locations in the state. While $2 million is a recurring appropriation, the additional $2 million means the Florida Pregnancy Care Network can increase its reach in a state that ranks third in the nation with 100,000 abortions per year.
“We are thrilled with the additional funding and gratified that the State of Florida recognizes and appreciates the vital work of pregnancy help organizations,” Susan Grimsley, executive director for the Florida Pregnancy Care Network, said.
With the additional funding, Grimsley hopes to see the network expand, drawing in more of the state’s pregnancy help centers. Participating organizations receive $60 per hour for counseling and class instruction, and are reimbursed $1.50 per pregnancy test.
Funding for client-facing educational material is also available to pregnancy help centers, as is participation in a united advertising effort that will direct callers to local pregnancy centers through Heartbeat International’s 24-7 pregnancy helpline, Option Line.
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“It is highly encouraging to see a state like Florida taking a proactive approach to make sure that every woman has all the information and support she needs to make the healthiest choice for everyone involved in an unexpected pregnancy,” Jor-El Godsey, vice president of Heartbeat International, said.
Though some pregnancy help centers, like Pregnancy Help and Information in Tallahassee, were hesitant to test the waters of receiving any government funding when the program was first rolled out, participating centers have been pleasantly surprised at the flexibility they have been allowed to maintain.
Last year, centers made direct use of $1.7 million of the $2 million, with the remaining amount going to administrative costs. Connie Moore, the now-retired CEO of Pregnancy Help and Information who now serves as the board chair of the Florida Pregnancy Care Association, hopes to see more centers follow their lead to make the best use of the increased funding stream.
“Despite initial concerns by some pregnancy help organizations in the state, we at the PHI Center found that the program did not compromise our mission or our integrity in any way,” Moore said. “We learned early on how much of our time with clients was already billable, and the transition from [state-funded] time to spiritual time quickly became seamless.”