Planned Parenthood advocates push to defund pregnancy centers in Pennsylvania

A group of pro-abortion advocates has asked Pennsylvania Gov. Josh Shapiro (D) to remove funding for pro-life charities that have received taxpayer support for decades in the state.

Planned Parenthood Pennsylvania Advocates (PPPA) reportedly held a press conference last week ahead of a House Appropriations Committee hearing on funding through the Department of Human Services (DHS). The 2023-2024 budget proposal includes $7.3 million in funding, $1 million of which comes from the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program. Fox 43 reported that since 1995, the General Assembly has been responsible for administering grant funding for alternatives to abortion.

“Real Alternatives,” which offers maternity homes, pregnancy resource centers, and other services, currently has a $7.26 million contract with DHS. The group’s 25th anniversary report said that since 1996, it had “served more than 320,000 Pennsylvanian women with counseling, education classes, material support, and so much more.” Live Action News previously noted that tax forms available on Charity Navigator showed 97% of the organization’s funds being spent directly on programs and services. 

Yet, Eerie News Now reported that Tara Murtha, who serves as director of strategic communications at Women’s Law Project, called the spending “a poor investment of funds to use public dollars to fund a crisis pregnancy centers scheme that disseminates widespread false medical claims and functions as a barrier to legitimate health care.”

PPPA Executive Director Signe Espinoza accused pregnancy centers of deceiving women about the types of services they provide, according to CNHI News.

“No matter where you stand on this issue this is unacceptable,” she said. “These are people’s lives, and people are going into what they believe are medical centers to receive health care. Whether they choose to have an abortion, they deserve to receive that information, or whether they choose to continue a pregnancy they deserve non-judgmental pregnancy care.

It’s unclear how PPPA thinks “Real Alternatives” is being deceptive. On its website, the pro-life group states clearly that it doesn’t provide abortions:

We provide life-affirming pregnancy support services only and state such in our advertising and to our clients. This program exists to provide comprehensive support so a woman does not need to undergo an abortion. The program is prohibited by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and the State of Indiana from promoting, referring, or counseling for abortion.

It adds that it doesn’t contract with deceptive service providers and that its telephone counselors clarify that the group doesn’t provide abortions:

Although Real Alternatives is not familiar with centers with those kinds of practices, regardless, Real Alternatives takes measures to ensure that it only contracts with organizations that provide compassionate and caring client services. Misleading a woman in Unexpected Pregnancy about the scope of available services is not only dishonest, it is neither compassionate nor caring. Real Alternatives reviews each potential Service Provider’s phone procedures and advertisements to ensure potential clients are made aware that only life-affirming services are provided. Real Alternatives and its Service Providers would never advertise under “Abortion Services, etc.” Real Alternatives Service Providers do not “trick” clients into thinking they are Abortion Facilities.

Real Alternatives telephone counselors explain that we do not provide abortion services nor provide referrals for abortions, but we can connect them with support services that have been received by over 460,000 women to date.

Rep. Kathy Rapp (R-Warren/Crawford/Forest), who serves as the Republican chair of the Health Committee, defended the group, noting that it provides support for children before and after birth. “Even if they’re looking to choose abortion, they still want to come in to see what their options are, maybe to get another opinion on what that abortion procedure is going to look like, feel like, and the repercussions of the abortion procedure itself,” Rapp reportedly said.

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Gov. Shapiro, who took office this year, has been an outspoken proponent of abortion, tweeting “abortion is health care” amid allegations that the University of Pittsburgh was trafficking fetal tissue. Yet, his DHS seemed reluctant to remove or block funding allocated by the legislature. 

“The Shapiro Administration unequivocally supports the right to choose and access to the full scope of reproductive health care,” a spokesperson told Fox 43. “These services are essential and Pennsylvanians deserve honesty from those they trust with medical care or counsel.” 

“Alternatives to abortion are options for those who do not wish to parent but would like to carry their pregnancy to term, but based on reports from other states, there are serious concerns regarding potentially deceptive practices employed by certain crisis pregnancy centers nationwide.”

The spokesperson added, “DHS’ funding is the result of legislative action, which the Department must abide by. Pennsylvanians are reminded that despite efforts nationwide to restrict abortion access, abortion and reproductive healthcare services remain safe, legal, and accessible in the Commonwealth for both residents and non-residents alike.”

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