Pennsylvania Gov. Josh Shapiro has announced the termination of a state contract with the national anti-abortion program Real Alternatives, shifting millions of taxpayer dollars to other women’s health providers.
Real Alternatives has been providing counseling and housing for pregnant women throughout Pennsylvania for years. With state and federal funding, the nonprofit distributed millions of dollars to dozens of centers, including Catholic Charities, anti-abortion counseling centers, and maternity homes.
The Shapiro administration will not continue that pattern, opting instead to promote abortion access.
“We will ensure women in this Commonwealth receive the reproductive health care they deserve,” he said in a statement.
The termination of the contract puts the fate of the program in doubt and leaves its beneficiaries scrambling for solutions.
Eileen Artysh, executive director of the St. Margaret of Castello Maternity Home, said her organization receives money from Real Alternatives to provide housing, materials, and parenting counseling to its clients. Artysh said that getting rid of the program could impact the home’s ability to provide these resources to pregnant women in need.
“Until there’s that last penny left, I’m in this for the long haul,” she said. “And the moms that we help — I can’t imagine deserting any of them.”
Real Alternatives has been providing services to pregnant women since the mid-90s, when the first “abortion alternative program” was established in the state. Under both Republican and Democratic leadership, the program had continued to rely on state and federal funds.
Kevin Bagatta, president and CEO of Real Alternatives, said the move will only lead to an increase in abortions.
“It’s sad because this is a great program, and you take this program away, abortions will substantially increase in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania,” he said.
Despite this attempt to decrease access to abortion, many women have still found ways to benefit from the organization’s services. Alyssa MacAfee, 26, was homeless, jobless, and pregnant when she sought help from St. Margaret’s.
“Everyone was definitely looking at my situation like, ‘You cannot bring a baby into the world right now,’ but I knew that I wanted to,” she said.
MacAfee said the support and resources she received from the home enabled her to find a job and an apartment, and now provides her baby with diapers.
“It was the biggest blessing life has ever given me,” she said.
The Pennsylvania government’s decision to end the contract with Real Alternatives and shift the focus to abortion access is controversial. While the Shapiro administration hopes to provide reproductive health care to women, the change could have serious consequences for those in need of resources and assistance from the organization’s anti-abortion services.