When you visit the Real Alternatives headquarters outside of Harrisburg, you’re not going to find case-workers and pregnant women looking for help. But the work that is done here makes it possible for those two groups of people to meet each other and have that potentially life-saving assistance provided.
“When we talk about providing support, we’re talking about the Catholic Charities throughout the state providing support,” said Kevin Bagatta, the President of Real Alternatives. “We’re talking about pregnancy centers providing support and we’re talking about maternity homes providing support.”
There about 90 Real Alternatives-affiliated pregnancy centers providing support throughout Pennsylvania, using about 370 counselors. They’re about giving pregnant women a choice too. They are dedicated to provide support to encourage childbirth so the client need not feel she needs to choose abortion.
What Real Alternatives does is provide government resources to all of those centers. That has made a huge difference in pregnancy services in the some 24 years that Real Alternatives has been in existence. In that amount of time, almost 310,000 women have been helped. That doesn’t include the babies, just the moms!
“When I first met the people at Morningstar Pregnancy Services in Harrisburg,” Bagatta said, “they had volunteers but they were only open Tuesday and Thursday night, 6 to 8. By providing resources for the work that they do, they were able to– after a couple of years–buy a bigger building and now they operate six days a week. They have more counselors to see more clients to help more people.”
Many times the young, pregnant woman is alone and is being pressured to have an abortion. Bagatta says the counselors will help her realize she does not have to abort her baby because of her situation. And that she is not by herself.
“Very simply that’s what our program does,” Bagatta said. “It does it in Pennsylvania. It does it in Indiana. It does it in Michigan. It does it in the program we started in Texas. It does it day in and day out in the other states. They may just not be funded for it.”
In addition to the center in Texas, Real Alternatives has also helped 11 other states establish similar programs: Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Kansas, Louisiana, Missouri, Minnesota, Nebraska, North Dakota, Ohio and Oklahoma.
The care during pregnancy continues afterwards as the new mother is supported through her parenting or adoption decision.
“After the pregnancy, especially with young people, that unplanned pregnancy, or unexpected pregnancy can become a crisis parenting situation,” Bagatta said. “We’ll be there with them for that time to make sure they are ready and are providing good parenting and good nurturing and are being taken care of during that first year of life.”
Bagatta says the outcomes for the program are very high, with 98% of clients showing up for prenatal care visits and 99% for immunization rates.
“That doesn’t surprise us, because of the wonderful counselors we have,” Bagatta said. “And the love that they show our clients.”
He says the Centers for Disease Control keeps track of how much that type of preventive care can save money in the long run. In Pennsylvania last year, Bagatta says CDC calculations show that 8,000 child immunizations of Real Alternatives clients saved taxpayers $162-million. The pre-natal care of nearly 15,000 clients’ children saved the taxpayers of PA $334-million.
I had interviewed Kevin back in January to find out what Real Alternatives has to offer. That was before the New York State vote, which allows for later-term abortions, even up to the moment of a child’s birth. Bagatta says he’s heard from people who are even pro-choice that were shocked by what has happened in New York.
“They told me they cannot believe what is going on in New York. Though they thought abortion was okay for the first couple of months, they absolutely, vehemently disagree with what is basically infanticide. They said that is never what they considered about abortion….It’s turning people. They understand that’s a very, very extreme position.”
The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania has offered the nation, in these turbulent times we live, a clearly different policy choice on helping women in unexpected pregnancies. It funds a program that provides love and life-affirming support to the women and then to her baby. This program lowers abortion by supporting the pregnant woman through her crisis. Shouldn’t every state have such a program?