Following Governor Josh Shapiro’s signing of the 2023-2024 budget, Department of Human Services (DHS) Secretary Dr. Val Arkoosh announced the Commonwealth’s contract with Real Alternatives – an organization that purports to provide counseling, referrals, and other services through partnerships with crisis pregnancy centers – will come to an end by December 31, 2023.
“The Shapiro Administration is taking a huge step forward today by ending the Real Alternatives contract after 30 years. Every woman seeking reproductive health care has the right to unbiased, medically accurate care and counsel,” said Arkoosh. “The Department of Human Services has an obligation to ensure our contractors and partners are acting in line with these values and being good stewards of taxpayer resources, and we will not relent on this commitment.”
“For decades, taxpayer dollars have gone to fund Real Alternatives. My Administration will not continue that pattern – we will ensure women in this Commonwealth receive the reproductive health care they deserve,” said Shapiro. “Pennsylvanians made clear by electing me as Governor that they support a woman’s freedom to choose, and I will be steadfast in defending that right.”
For many years, the General Assembly (GA) has allocated funding for programs that provide alternatives to abortion services. Historically, per the fiscal code, DHS was required to administer those GA funds, and has done so through an agreement with Real Alternatives, a program established 27 years ago by former Pennsylvania Democrat Gov. Bob Casey Sr. to support pregnant mothers who choose life for their unborn babies. Real Alternatives works with a network of non-medical providers, which includes crisis pregnancy centers (also known as pregnancy resource centers). No Commonwealth agency has licensing oversight of crisis pregnancy centers or how they assist pregnant women.
“For 30 years, crisis pregnancy centers preyed on the most vulnerable Pennsylvanians with deception and misinformation – but that era is ending,” said Planned Parenthood PA Advocates Executive Director Signe Espinoza in a statement. “These facilities harmed us over and over again, and taxpayers footed the bill. They’ve taken hundreds of millions in taxpayer money to advance an anti-abortion agenda and we thank Governor Josh Shapiro for putting an end to it.
“Today’s announcement is an enormous win for every Pennsylvanian; we all deserve access to the full spectrum of sexual and reproductive health care, and yes that means abortion too. CPCs have not offered that. While the real alternative to abortion is prenatal care, not one of these hundreds of facilities offer it.
“We deserve the freedom and the privacy to make our most intimate health care decisions with our doctors and without the predatory influence of anti-abortion counseling. In a post-Roe world, we can’t settle for state funding of CPCs. We need bold action to protect our right to care and our ability to access it. Governor Shapiro took bold action today.”
Former Pennsylvania Auditor General Eugene DePasquale shared an audit report in 2017 claiming Real Alternatives spent millions of dollars over the course of decades on services outside of the state.
“By its own admission in court, Real Alternatives used hundreds of thousands of Pennsylvania taxpayer dollars to fund its activities in other states,” DePasquale said. “It is just as outrageous that the state grant agreement was so weak that it allowed this practice to go on for decades siphoning funds intended to benefit Pennsylvania women experiencing crisis pregnancies.
DHS will soon issue a Request for Applications (RFA) seeking applications for women’s health service programs as allocated in the 2023-24 Budget.