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Ohio Sends $1 Million to Pro-Life Pregnancy Centers Helping Women Find Abortion Alternatives

Ohio Department of Jobs and Family Services.

The state announced Tuesday that it will provide $1 million to 13 pro-life pregnancy centers in the 2016-2017 state budget, according to Ohio Right to Life. Ohio Gov. John Kasich signed the budget, which included the funding, in July; but the recipients of the Pregnancy and Parenting Support Program funding were just announced this week.

“Ohio is blessed to be home to more than 140 pregnancy centers that are actively assisting new mothers during and after pregnancy,” said Stephanie Ranade Krider, executive director of Ohio Right to Life. “Centers like this year’s awardees continue to show us what it means to truly care for Ohio’s most vulnerable across the span of life. They are true community leaders who will turn every dollar they’ve earned into saved lives.”

These organizations provide free material assistance to pregnant women in need, as well as parenting classes for mothers and fathers alike, a service that many centers consider a core element in empowering families. Many also offer free pregnancy tests, diapers, maternity clothes, baby supplies, counseling and assistance referrals.

The 13 life-affirming organizations under the Ohio Pregnancy and Parenting Support Program are located throughout the state, according to a press release from Ohio Right to Life. Elizabeth’s New Life Center, for example, operates seven women’s centers in southwest Ohio, three in Montgomery County and others in Warren, Hamilton, and Shelby Counties; and they run a mobile center at college campuses, the release states. Another recipient, Heartbeat of Toledo, also is working to expand its two centers by purchasing a mobile unit, according to the press release.

“Ohio’s pregnancy centers continue to represent the heart of the pro-life movement through active compassion,” said Krider. “We are grateful to our pro-life legislators and our pro-life governor for prioritizing funding for those who serve the pre-born and their mothers. Our team looks forward to the many ways in which this new funding will facilitate these organizations’ outreach to their communities.”

Several other states also provide funding for alternatives to abortion programs. Indiana recently expanded its program, awarding $3.5 million to life-affirming organizations across the state. Michigan and Pennsylvania also distribute money to programs that provide pregnancy and parenting support to families. These states’ right to life groups credit the programs with helping to reduce abortion rates by giving women hope and help for themselves and their babies.
[24 Dec 15, ]



Pennsylvania is one of more than a half-dozen states that fund abortion-alternative programs with tax dollars.
[First of a two-part series … rather biased media reporting]

It may be the only part of Gov. Tom Wolf’s proposed budget that hasn’t been controversial: The $6.7 million allocated to “Expanded Medical Services for Women” is, after all, just the latest installment for a program that began two decades ago. And who could argue with a program described as funding “food, shelter, clothing, health care, counseling … and other support programs”?

But that money, a mix of state and federal funds, is earmarked for organizations that oppose abortion and pledge not to recommend artificial birth control. And while some recipients are long-trusted charities, others … claim abortion’s health impacts.

Supporters say the funding simply helps women in difficult circumstances. “If a woman is single and finds she is having a child, and is nervous and concerned, those centers would be providing support,” said state Rep. Kathy Rapp, R-Warren, who chairs the state Legislature’s Pro-Life Caucus.

In Washington, D.C., the country’s best-known family planning organization, Planned Parenthood, has become a political lightning rod: Congressional Republicans have threatened a government shutdown unless it is cut off from public money. But in Pennsylvania, taxpayer support of an avowedly anti-abortion program has largely escaped attention.

“It is not simply a program that provides … support to pregnant women,” said Sue Frietsche, a senior staff attorney at the Women’s Law Project. “There is a clear ideological agenda behind it.”

‘We’re going to help’

Pennsylvania is one of more than a half-dozen states that fund abortion-alternative programs with tax dollars. (Several others do so using proceeds from “choose life” license plates.) But the Keystone State pioneered the practice in the early 1990s.

That’s when the late Gov. Robert P. Casey, an anti-abortion Democrat, began providing equal funding for women’s health services (though not abortion itself) and an abortion-alternatives program. “Funding for both is necessary and worthwhile,” a Casey aide told the Philadelphia Inquirer in 1993.

Doing so “was a political deal,” said Elizabeth Nash, a senior state issues advocate with the Guttmacher Institute, a research organization that supports reproductive rights.

In 1997, the state selected Real Alternatives, a Harrisburg-based nonprofit, to administer the abortion-alternatives program. According to Real Alternatives’ agreement with the state, the program provides counseling and support so pregnant women “no longer feel compelled to choose abortion out of a sense of helplessness.”

Real Alternatives’ current five-year contract, valued at $30.2 million, expires in 2017. Most of that money is disbursed to 40-some nonprofit service providers, which Real Alternatives monitors and reimburses.

To participate, providers must pledge not to discriminate or charge fees. They must also “maintain a pro-life mission” and “provide abstinence education as the best and only method” of birth control, according to the pact.

Real Alternatives is paid to oversee the program, with president and CEO Kevin Bagatta receiving $234,955 in salary and benefits for the 2013-14 fiscal year. Neither Mr. Bagatta nor Thomas Lang, vice president of operations, responded to phone calls or emailed questions. Several area agencies participating in the program also did not return calls or declined an interview.

Providers range from smaller entities such as Alternatives Yes, a pregnancy support center in Connellsville, to Catholic Charities, a long-established charity whose services include a Downtown Pittsburgh housing program for low-income mothers.

Susan Rauscher, executive director of Catholic Charities in the Pittsburgh Diocese, said, “If you’re a woman who is unexpectedly pregnant and whose partner steps out, [the program] gives us as a state the ability to say, ‘We’re going to help you through that.’ ”

Alternatives Yes executive director Andrea Pritts said her center offers free pregnancy tests, classes and support and “lay counseling.” A “mother’s pantry” with cribs, diapers and other supplies is available for needy families.

“Real Alternatives is what allows us to be here,” Ms. Pritts said. …
[October 4, 2015, Molly Born and Chris Potter / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, ]