Indiana Giving $3.5 Million From Needy-Families Fund to Anti-Abortion Counselors



The Indiana Department of Health just awarded a $3.5 million contract to Real Alternatives, a Pennsylvania-based group that describes itself as providing "government-funded alternatives to abortion services." The money comes from the state's federal Temporary Assistance for Needy Families funds, though Real Alternatives programs will be open to women across the state regardless of income level. 

Real Alternatives received $1 million last year from Indiana for a pilot program in the state, in addition to $6.69 million from the Pennsylvania Department of Human Services and $700,000 from Michigan's Department of Community Health for programs in those states last year.

Note that Real Alternatives doesn't provide gynecological services, ultrasounds, prenatal services, or any other medical care for pregnant women. Its mission is merely "to provide life-affirming pregnancy and parenting support services" and "empower women" to "choose childbirth rather than abortion." Services include "couseling and mentoring," free self-test pregnancy kits, abstinence education, adoption information, referrals to other faith-based social services, and childbirth and parenting classes.

The organization does not prescribe or endorse any sort of birth control beyond natural family planning. 

Women's health advocates in Indiana have been critical of the state's decision to back an organization that provides so little in the way of material services to pregnant women, and presents such a narrow range of options for those who wish to avoid future pregnancies. "I think that true health care for women who are pregnant is giving them all of the tools that they would need to have a healthy pregnancy and avoid another crisis pregnancy, and that would be access to health care and contraception," Abby Hunt, executive director of the nonprofit Health Care Education & Training, told the Indianapolis Star

In Pennsylvania, the state Auditor General's office is currently looking into Real Alternatives, after a Pittsburgh Post-Gazette investigation called the organization's efforts into question. The paper found local Real Alternatives affiliates providing misleading information about abortion, including brochures asserting "there is evidence that abortion is associated with a decrease in emotional health," a "psychological response (that) is a form of post-traumatic stress disorder." In an interview with the Post-Gazette, Nada Stotland, a former president of the American Psychiatric Association, called it "cruel and wrong" to tell pregnant women that getting an abortion could cause mental health issues. "The last entity that should be perpetuating this is our own government," she said.