Amy Stoner

On August 3, Governor Shapiro announced that he would end the PA Department of Human Services contract with Real Alternatives after nearly 30 years of vital service to women in need.

>>READ MORE: Governor Shapiro to End Funding for Pregnancy Support Services Provided by Catholic Social Services

Real Alternatives is the non-profit that administers Pennsylvania’s Pregnancy and Parenting Support Program. This critical initiative started under Democratic Governor Bob Casey to provide services for women facing unplanned pregnancies. Since its inception, Real Alternatives and its network of 77 service providers has helped over 349,000 women in the Commonwealth!

As the largest provider of pregnancy and parenting support services in Pennsylvania for the last eleven consecutive years, and as an organization that has been an affiliate of Real Alternatives from its beginning, I speak on behalf of Catholic Social Services of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia (CSS) and the 58,910 pregnant women who we have helped.

Last year alone, CSS provided pregnancy and parenting support to over 4,000 women. 82% of the women that turned to CSS for assistance had at one time or another considered abortion, but elected to choose childbirth and parenting instead.  I believe that the support offered through CSS, including services that healthcare providers are not able to offer, led many of our clients to choose life.

To say that the decision to defund Real Alternatives is misguided would be an understatement.  It’s a devastating move that will deprive women throughout the state of vital resources at a time when they are struggling, vulnerable, and in need.

Services provided through Real Alternatives funding focus on the holistic well-being of these women by ensuring that they have access to pre-natal care through qualified providers thanks to our longstanding partnerships with hospitals and health clinics in the neighborhoods where these women live. It goes beyond referrals to making sure appointments are being kept and eliminating obstacles to attending those appointments.

Our staff also provide ongoing support before and after routine appointments that include additional services available from CSS and a variety of other providers.

We receive referrals from dozens of healthcare providers and other social service organizations.  Many of their patients and clients face severe financial hardships and are resettling from other countries.  We are proud to have partnered with them and want to continue doing so!

Thanks to Real Alternatives, we offer a strong support system based on meeting needs while giving moms and moms to be a network of mutually supportive interaction. Networking initiatives include community baby showers and other events to celebrate parenthood.  We also provide parenting education programs that utilize evidence-based curriculum. On a practical level, we provide, diapers, baby items, rental assistance, access to governmental benefits, food, personal care and feminine hygiene products, and housing.

The funding we receive from Real Alternatives is absolutely essential for us to continue providing these much-needed services. If this funding disappears, the impact on Pennsylvania’s women and children will be disastrous We offer real hope through Real Alternatives. Governor Shapiro’s plan would leave these women hopeless and with no alternatives.

He was recently quoted as saying, “Pennsylvanians made clear by electing me as governor that they support a woman’s freedom to choose.”

The great irony is that by unilaterally depriving access to services funded by Real Alternatives, the governor is taking away the freedom for these women to choose for themselves where they voluntarily want to receive services. He’s abandoning our state’s women and his promise to them.

Amy Stoner, LSW, is the Director of Catholic Social Services Community Based and Housing and Homeless Services Division.