In early August, Gov. Josh Shapiro announced the cancellation of the nearly three-decade agreement with Real Alternatives to provide state and federally funded abortion alternative services in Pennsylvania.
By abandoning the Real Alternatives contract and putting out an onerous application process for a new vendor for abortion alternative services, Gov. Shapiro is removing reproductive health choices for women across our Commonwealth, while creating the false choice between abortion and life.
That false choice will disrupt many pregnancies and have a lasting impact on countless families.
As a former chief executive officer for a large pregnancy resource center in Georgia, I have witnessed firsthand the multi-faceted services performed by abortion alternative providers. These services work holistically to support the whole family as they go through the pregnancy experience and after birth. Working in this field, I was able to talk with thousands of women to better understand their concerns and needs and put solutions in place to support woman and families.
Pregnant mothers, fathers, and current children can walk in the doors of Family Support and Abortion Alternative Services and utilize services as mundane but life-changing as gifts for Christmas or truly impactful and health-confirming ultrasounds.
These support centers provide parenting classes, counseling services, coordinate with social services organizations, and help those struggling to find community resources to help support and grow their families.
More importantly, these service organizations stand to help families realize that there are resources and support services available, so people do not need to feel isolated, alone, or without support during and after pregnancy. In most of my experiences with women who have an unplanned pregnancy, they are very fearful of not being able to support the baby and typically concerned about the father’s lack of involvement in raising the child. My pregnancy resource center offered support groups for fathers as well, and provided job training options for those who wanted to support the child but didn’t know how.
Whether it is helping to coordinate medical services or providing diapers, cribs, and formula for children after they are born, abortion alternative and family support centers often know of one life they’ve saved by opening an alternative to abortion, but they often do not know how many additional children are brought into the world after parents realize there is help to solidify and support their family.
The programs offered by these abortion alternative centers are not offered by Planned Parenthood. This organization makes most of its profit from abortions which, in my mind, gives them more incentive to keep performing them. I’ve heard horrible personal testimonies from women who were told “not to look at the ultrasound because it will just make the decision harder.” This doesn’t sound like an organization that wants to support women.
From my experience, most women we counseled in my center who had previous abortions regretted their decision. That is why my organization also offered post-abortion counseling. Some even said they felt “pressured to have the abortion” at Planned Parenthood. These women and men suffered severe consequences of this in the form of addiction, depression and even suicide.
If we truly want a culture that is pro-woman, we must meet these women where they are in their lives and allow them to assess options with support. If they want to choose life, we should help them make the transition to parenthood by teaching them how to be a parent and assisting with their initial needs.
The current and reliable model for the delivery of these services (services which have already been funded at the state level through federal pass-through money) will cease to exist at the end of the year, putting dozens of family support organizations in jeopardy without a similar alternative due to Governor Shapiro’s selfish decision.
While I do agree these organizations should have a medical component, like offering ultrasounds under the direction of a medical doctor, the Real Alternatives sites operate as non-profits and cannot pay salaries of an expensive staff like Planned Parenthood. Real Alternatives depends on state funding and their own fundraising efforts to meet the needs of women and children in our communities. Their efforts amount to $301 million in taxpayer savings for over 11,000 women who received proper pre-natal care after engaging with them.
The Shapiro administration is creating a Hobson’s choice for family support centers that will be a boon for abortion-or-nothing providers like Planned Parenthood since technical compliance with the application for funding will be impossible. This governor claims to be pro-choice but the new application for funds only qualifies one provider. It doesn’t sound like women and families are going to have an option to choose life in the future.
Keeping in line with the Pennsylvania tradition of a middle ground approach on reproductive rights, the Shapiro administration should rethink how to move forward with supporting a pro-woman agenda. As a woman who believes that women should know all options available to them and as a previous CEO of a pregnancy resource center that provided true solutions to family planning, I expect more from our governor than a false choice.