A Real Alternative to a False Choice

Posted October 13, 2023 in News

By Andrea Kochan Neagle

This article originally appeared in The Morning Call as an op-ed and is reprinted with permission.

The “Reproductive Rights” activists are celebrating gleefully the Shapiro Administration’s decision to end the Commonwealth’s contract with the group Real Alternatives, a Guidestar Gold Status non-profit organization that provides no cost professional pregnancy and parenting support services to any woman considering options other than abortion.   Governor Shapiro said his administration “will ensure women in this Commonwealth receive the reproductive health care they deserve,” saying he was steadfast in defending abortion access.

The truth is, access to abortion in Pennsylvania does not need to be defended by the governor.  Planned Parenthood, the leading provider of abortions in the United States, has 25 affiliate locations throughout the Commonwealth.  There are no barriers to abortion access here.

The Governor and his Administration take every opportunity to criticize the $30 million in funding Real Alternatives received over a five-year period.  And while numbers specific to Pennsylvania are hard to come by, Planned Parenthood’s 2022 Annual Report (tellingly titled “Relentless”) indicates that in 2022 alone it received a whopping $670.4 million in government grants and reimbursements, making up 35% of its revenue.

According to that same Annual Report, Planned Parenthood affiliates performed 374,155 abortions in 2022.  To put this in context, 372,000 people lived in Cleveland, Ohio at the time of the 2020 Census.

The reproductive health care women deserve includes meaningful support for women choosing to keep their children.  In contrast to Planned Parenthood’s “Relentless” assault on women and families by promoting abortion, the Real Alternatives program, which receives a tiny fraction of the government funding that Planned Parenthood receives, provides exactly that:  a viable alternative to abortion through its life-affirming pregnancy and parenting support services.

Real Alternatives supports a statewide network of agencies, one of which is Catholic Charities Diocese of Allentown, which is staffed with fully trained, caring, and compassionate counselors. Catholic Charities is a non-profit organization that serves every woman who walks in our door regardless of religion, race, creed, language or income.  Catholic Charities is monitored annually to ensure compliance with the Department of Human Services standards.  Catholic Charities Diocese of Allentown has been a partner with Real Alternatives for 20 years and has served over 9,000 clients through our pregnancy and parenting support programs.

But let’s get past the statistics, because while statistics are important for perspective, our clients are not statistics.  Catholic Charities’ counselors focus on the innate human dignity of each and every client we serve.  Because of the funding we receive, our trained counselors can offer non-judgmental guidance to any woman who needs the time, space and support to make an authentic choice that is best for her, her child and her family. From the moment a woman contacts Catholic Charities, she is treated with respect, compassion and dignity. Our trained staff walk with her, not just through her pregnancy, but through her journey to parenthood by offering counseling, parenting classes, and often significant material support like diapers, formula, baby food and clothing.   We offer this ongoing support so that these women and their families can thrive.

Of course, not every woman chooses to keep her baby.  In those heart-wrenching situations, we are there helping women make the loving decision to place their baby for adoption. We can help these women fully participate in the process of choosing adoptive parents and the level to which they want to remain a part of their child’s life.

Pennsylvanians need to know that thousands of pregnant women want to choose life for their babies, and that organizations like Catholic Charities are here to support them in this critical and life-affirming decision. The Governor is giving only one option to women: end your baby’s life because he or she isn’t valued as an individual.  Cutting funding to Real Alternatives is not presenting a “choice” for women.  Do we really want Pennsylvania to be known as a state that doesn’t value life and human dignity?

Ending a thirty-year program that has helped thousands of women and men strengthen their parenting skills and provide a loving home for their children is a disgrace. It’s not too late to send a message to our legislators that Pennsylvanians want real alternatives because Pennsylvanians value the innate human dignity of mothers, fathers and children.

To help Catholic Charities support pregnant women, donate here.

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