As it has done for years, the State of Pennsylvania approved funding for the budget he passed last month to support the anti-abortion movement, a party with money diverted from cash assistance for people in poverty.
Allocations – $6.2 million from the state and $1 million from federal TANF, or welfare, funds go to real alternativesa private, nonprofit organization in Harrisburg that funnels money into Crisis Pregnancy Centers (CPCs).
These facilities advertise services offering pregnancy and parenting support to low-income women in an attempt to discourage them from having abortions.
Although legal, the centers use deceptive tactics and medical misinformation, according to abortion rights advocates. The people who run these centers say the accusation is false and that their work is honest and scientific.
While Pennsylvania’s funding of Real Alternatives has always been controversial, following the U.S. Supreme Court’s overturning of Roe v. Wade, the subject sparks a storm among those who support abortion rights, as well as among advocates for people experiencing poverty.
“Now that we’ve lost Roe,” said Tara Murtha, director of strategic communications for the Women’s Law Project, “it has become clear that the quiet diversion of funds to CPCs has been the complementary strategy to the most high-profile efforts to reverse Roe.
“Money is being stolen from the coffers of anti-abortion activists, and it’s outrageous.”
Real Alternatives did not respond to a request for comment. A statement released by the organization said its service providers “are motivated by the love of God to serve women with unexpected pregnancies so they do not feel pressured to abort their unborn child… Real Alternatives facilities meet rigorous ethical standards.
Sociologist Judith Levine, director of Temple University’s Public Policy Lab, said it was “very concerning” that funding for TANF, which supports low-income women and children, continues to be diverted to the anti-abortion movement.
Pennsylvania is one of nine states to funnel federal cash assistance from mostly women and children in extreme poverty — disproportionately black and people of color — to an anti-abortion entity.
“We want a world where children are supported and cared for,” Levine said. “It is very difficult to see the policy of giving money to TANF when so many children are suffering.”
For decades, the Republican-led Legislature has continually allocated funds to the Pennsylvania Department of Social Services to fund Real Alternatives. So far, DHS has allocated more than $113 million in public funds and $21 million in federal dollars to Real Alternatives.
Sen. Pat Browne (R-Lehigh), Senate Appropriations Chairman, did not respond to a request for comment.
A statement on the DHS website states that “the program promotes childbirth rather than abortion…and provides…services regarding…parenthood and chastity.” The website lists Real Alternatives under the heading “Where to go for help”.
Real Alternatives is the only contractor to receive money to run the Alternative Abortion Services program. Its headquarters are located in the state capital, in a nondescript office square, near a thrift store.
Although organizations that perform abortions such as Planned Parenthood have received state funding for family planning, they receive no money for abortions. Their funding comes primarily from donations and patient services, a Planned Parenthood spokesperson said.
A 2006 congressional report found that 87% of CPCs contacted by investigators “provided false or misleading medical information,” such as saying that abortions are unsafe, despite proof to the contrary.
Pennsylvania’s choice to transfer money intended for its most needy anti-abortion operations underscores a “disconnect” plaguing low-income Americans, many of whom are black and women of color, said LaDonna Pavetti, vice -President of the Center on Budget and Political Priorities.
“This funding is used to convince a woman to have a child,” she said. “But when the child is born, the state provides few resources. A family of three receives an average of $403 per month in TANF in Pennsylvania, which hasn’t increased since 1990. That’s huge.
In Pennsylvania, Real Alternatives claims to have served 50,000 women using TANF dollars alone and 331,000 women in total through 1.7 million service visits since opening.
Jill Hartman, executive director of A Woman’s Concern, described as a pregnancy support center in Lancaster, said women who “choose life deserve this network of people who help them”. Hartman, who said his center receives an average of $100,000 a year from Real Alternatives.
Hartman said that “not only do we provide medical services for pregnant women, but also services for families until the child is one year old.”
If women in this post-Roe climate ventured to Pennsylvania seeking help with their pregnancies, Hartman continued, “we would provide information on all of their options based on objective science.
“All would be treated with respect, dignity and knowledge.”
Disagreeing with CPCs offering scientific advice, Sen. Amanda Cappelletti (D-Montgomery/Delaware) said these centers provide “false and dangerous narratives” to women seeking reproductive care. .
And, she concluded, “It’s absolutely horrible that we’re taking TANF money to pay for alternative abortion propaganda.”
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