Pennsylvania announced on Thursday that, after nearly 30 years, it was canceling the contract of an anti-abortion group that provides funding for deceptive crisis pregnancy centers. The group, Real Alternatives, had received more than $134 million to date in state and federal funds. Gov. Josh Shapiro (D) first signed the 2023-2024 budget, which increased the line item from $6.2 million to $8.2 million, and then his administration separately revealed the end of the group’s contract.
CPCs are usually Evangelical-run anti-abortion facilities that exist solely to dissuade people from having abortions. They masquerade as real health clinics but typically don’t have any licensed medical professionals on staff, only offering free pregnancy tests and ultrasounds without disclosing that the ultrasounds are non-diagnostic and don’t accurately date a pregnancy. (A Massachusetts woman recently sued a CPC claiming that it failed to diagnose her ectopic pregnancy and that the pregnancy later ruptured, requiring emergency surgery.) Many CPCs also offer things like diapers and baby clothes, but only after people “earn” them by taking parenting classes.
“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,” Shapiro said in a release. “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.”
Department of Human Services Secretary Dr. Val Arkoosh said in the release that the move is “a huge step forward” and that “every woman seeking reproductive health care has the right to unbiased, medically accurate care and counsel.”
Real Alternatives oversees about 27 crisis pregnancy centers in Pennsylvania according to the Women’s Law Project; CPCs outnumber abortion clinics there by about nine to one, much higher than the national average.
Local reproductive health and rights advocates have sharply criticized using taxpayer dollars to fund what is essentially anti-abortion propaganda. The group had recently received $6.2 million annually from the state and $1 million from Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), or federal funds for pregnant people and children living in poverty. (Pennsylvania is not the only state to do this: Eight other states send TANF funds to anti-abortion groups.) In total, the Pennsylvania legislature allocated—and DHS administered—more than $113 million in state money and $21 million in federal TANF funds to Real Alternatives.
Amal Bass, interim co-director of Women’s Law Project, said in a statement, “We thank the Shapiro Administration for terminating the contract with Real Alternatives and urge the Administration to reallocate the funds to support evidence-based reproductive healthcare.”
Real Alternatives’ contract will end by December 31 and the state will soon solicit applications for the funding. It’s honestly wild that the previous governor—Tom Wolf, who was also a pro-choice Democrat—didn’t take this step, but better late than never, I suppose.
Real Alternatives is based in Harrisburg but doles out money to facilities in other states. In 2019, Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D) canceled Real Alternatives’s $700,000 contract, noting “questionable benefit” following a public complaint. In Indiana, Real Alternatives still receives $2 million annually in public funds in Indiana.
Good move, Pennsylvania. I’m proud of my home state today.