“Outrageous;” Pennsylvania’s canceling longtime pregnancy help contract is pro-abortion status quo

“Outrageous;” Pennsylvania’s canceling longtime pregnancy help contract is pro-abortion status quo (Lazaro Rodriguez Jr/Pexels)

Democrat Pennsylvania Governor Josh Shapiro took an extreme abortion-affirming step earlier this month in declaring the state would end the decades-long contract with a life-affirming non-profit that helps fund pregnancy help organizations in the state. 

Real Alternatives, which has served more than 350,000 women over more than 27 years, according to the organization, has been supported by previous governors from both parties.

The Pennsylvania government announced that Real Alternatives, which serves more than 80 centers, maternity homes and adoption agencies in the Commonwealth, will no longer receive state funding once the contract ends on December 31 of this year.

Shapiro was overt in saying that support for abortion factored into the decision, stating, “Pennsylvanians made clear by electing me as Governor that they support a woman’s freedom to choose, and I will be steadfast in defending that right.”

“For decades, taxpayer dollars have gone to fund Real Alternatives,” Shapiro said. “My Administration will not continue that pattern – we will ensure women in this Commonwealth receive the reproductive health care they deserve.”

Shapiro’s move comes as the divide between life states and abortion states widens, with life states passing regulations that support life and abortion states taking legislative actions to suppress pregnancy centers for their life-affirming mission, often toeing the abortion industry line of claims that pregnancy centers mislead women or are so-called “fake clinics.” 

Real Alternatives is a non-profit, charitable organization that administers pregnancy and parenting support services for Pennsylvania and Indiana.

These pregnancy and parenting support services programs are made up of statewide or regional networks of social service agencies, pregnancy support centers, maternity residences and adoption agencies that “offer comprehensive, life-affirming alternatives to abortion to women dealing with unplanned pregnancies,” according to the group’s website.

In a statement Real Alternatives said that it was shocked at the Shapiro administration’s decision not to renew the contract as the administrator of its program.

The pregnancy help funding program administered by Real Alternatives is “award-winning,” the group’s statement said, and has “been commended for its work by two Pennsylvania governors, three secretaries of the Department of Public Welfare, one United States vice president, and one assistant secretary of the US Health and Human Services in charge of Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) funding.”

The program “provides that other choice,” said Real Alternatives President and CEO Kevin Bagatta. “The Commonwealth started this program in a bi-partisan way. We’ve had 350,000 women choose to come to this program,” adding that the program has “actually received referrals from Planned Parenthood.”

“Women need a clear-cut choice,” Bagatta said. “We have 85 centers total and 350 counselors serving for 27 years in Pennsylvania. We started with eight maternity homes, and we have 13 now. That’s because of resources.”

The program has been honored over the years for its accomplishments, said Bagatta, and won a Seal of Excellence award in the state.

“What Pennsylvania did 27 years ago was something that was a first,” he said. “It was a first to fund rape crises centers, domestic violence centers and pregnancy centers. All the state did was give more resources to save more women.”

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Cindi Boston, Heartbeat International vice-president and a former pregnancy center director, noted the services provided by pregnancy help centers save money in the long run due to the impact of volunteers in these agencies. 

“Pregnancy centers match dollars with groups of volunteers, often donating thousands of hours each year,” she said, “which according to the Points of Light Foundation is known to be valued at $31-32 per hour.” 

“Even the smallest centers accumulate tens of thousands worth of volunteer hours each year,” Boston told Pregnancy Help News. “These lean and efficient centers also stretch dollars with gifts-in-kind that grow the government's investment. Government grants are stretched and multiplied at centers doing the work no government entity can accomplish without grass-roots volunteers.”

Boston called the matter of cancelling the contract with Real Alternatives a “travesty” for Pennsylvania.

“It hurts the services provided to women and men that build a brighter future for them,” she said. “It reduces care for higher-risk pregnancies and undoubtedly increases the trauma of low-birth-weight babies, fatherless families, and community ills.” 

“In a day of critical need among high-risk populations, minimal state funding brings local help to local clients who desperately need long-term support,” said Boston. “We call on the governor to stop holding the dollars hostage that ensures pregnant moms and expectant dads receive the support and education they need to create a better future.” 

Tweet This: “It hurts the services provided to women and men that build a brighter future for them” - Heartbeat VP on Pa. defunding of Real Alternatives

In April, Planned Parenthood Pennsylvania Advocates, the abortion giant’s lobbying arm in the state, held a rally at the Pennsylvania capitol in Harrisburg, lobbying Shapiro to stop funding the Real Alternatives program, with Planned Parenthood Pennsylvania Advocates Executive Director Signe Espinoza propagating the pro-abortion claim that pregnancy centers practice deception.

“Their deceptive practices often delay patients to the point where abortion becomes inaccessible in Pennsylvania,” Espinoza alleged. “They provide no prenatal care, and they often force a religious agenda on the people who walk through their doors. These centers should receive state investigation, not a $6 million handout.” 

Bagatta said that Shapiro, who was elected in November of 2022, “has been terribly misinformed by the other side. We invite him to our centers to see for himself what we do.”

Real Alternatives began in the mid-1990s with the blessing of late Democrat, pro-life Governor Bob Casey, Sr. The centers were able to administer state funds to provide resources to pregnant women without referring for abortions. Any spiritual guidance and/or prayer was designed to be offered separately from the program in order to maintain separation of church and state.

Bagatta noted in a conversation last year on the Fox & Friends program that former Governor Casey spoke at Real Alternatives’ first banquet.

In announcing the severing of the state’s contract with Real Alternatives Shapiro alluded to the fact that Real Alternatives does not funnel funding to organizations that refer for abortion and supposed bias on the part of pregnancy centers as enough to cease the agreement. 

“The Shapiro Administration continues to unequivocally support a woman’s right to choose and access the full scope of reproductive health care,” Shapiro’s office said in its statement. “These services are essential, and Pennsylvanians deserve honesty and unbiased advice from those they trust with medical care or counsel.”

Real Alternatives

The state’s press release termed the decision a “major win for women’s health,” with Pennsylvania DHS Secretary Dr. Val Arkoosh carrying on the mantra debasing of pregnancy centers.

“The Shapiro Administration is taking a huge step forward today by ending the Real Alternatives contract after 30 years. Every woman seeking reproductive health care has the right to unbiased, medically accurate care and counsel,” Arkoosh said. “The Department of Human Services has an obligation to ensure our contractors and partners are acting in line with these values and being good stewards of taxpayer resources, and we will not relent on this commitment.”

The statement announced as well that the Pennsylvania Department of Human Services would be soliciting applications from abortion-affirming providers, concluding with, “All Pennsylvanians should know that abortion and reproductive health services remain safe, legal, and accessible here in Pennsylvania.”

Bagatta said the fight is not over.

He said the state is “blessed with a pro-life senate” that will fight for this support.  

 Real Alternatives

“I’m encouraged by the legislators and how they have really taken ownership of the program,” he said.

One of those senators is Judy Ward, a Republican who chairs the Maternal Childcare Caucus. Ward was interviewed on Fox & Friends immediately after the announcement from the Pennsylvania DHS.

“These centers are a lifeline for women,” Ward said, and that, “their outcomes are phenomenal.”

She noted that in all the roughly 350,000 Pennsylvania women served there had not been one complaint. Real Alternatives solicits feedback with every client visit.

Ward said Republicans thought the Real Alternatives program was on the table throughout budget negotiations, but then had "the rug pulled out from underneath" them with Shapiro's move, the governor then celebrating having cut off the relationship with Real Alternatives.

“We are going to continue to fight for this,” Ward said. “This is a real issue for us, a real priority. So, we plan on continuing to fight against this.” 

“It’s just outrageous to me,” she added. “I can’t understand with something that has been so successful why you would (end it) and it saves the Commonwealth dollars in health care costs because these clients receive proper prenatal care.”

“I don’t know how you can be celebrating the end of this program,” Ward said.

Bagatta encourages Pennsylvanians to contact their state representatives and senators and ask them to fight for Real Alternatives.

Visit the Real Alternatives website HERE.

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