Pennsylvania Governor Josh Shapiro announced last month that he intends to end state funding for Real Alternatives, an organization that distributes funds to crisis pregnancy centers, maternity homes, and other agencies across the state that support pregnant women and their families. The funding is due to expire at the end of 2023.

Catholic Social Services (CSS), the largest recipient of funding from Real Alternatives in Pennsylvania, provided assistance to more than 4,000 women last year. CSS counselors assist women across the five-county region, who are experiencing hardships due to unexpected pregnancy and connect them with supportive pre-natal and post-natal services that extend through the first 12 months of their child’s life.

“We don’t know the outcome of the governor’s decision yet because there are a lot of groups impacted by this decision that have rallied to voice their concern, voice their disappointment and voice their outrage over this,” said Amy Stoner, Director of Catholic Social Services of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia’s Community-Based and Housing and Homeless Services Division.

Former Pennsylvania Gov. Robert P. Casey (D) placed funding for the Pregnancy and Parenting Support Services Program in the state budget almost 30 years ago. This funding is provided through the Pennsylvania Department of Human Services, and it has helped thousands of Pennsylvania women receive the support they need to have their children.

Support services for women within the Archdiocese include pre-natal support programs, parenting classes and community baby showers. In addition, diapers, formula, and other necessities are provided to mothers. CSS also oversees Mercy Hospice, a residential program for women in recovery in Center City Philadelphia, and Visitation Homes, a permanent, supportive housing program in the Kensington section of Philadelphia that serves families experiencing homelessness.

Additionally, CSS works in partnership with the Pro-Life Union of Greater Philadelphia to support pregnant women, new parents, caregivers, and families at the Cenacle at the Padre Pio Center in the Frankford section of Philadelphia.

The majority of clients that CSS serves are minorities who live in low-income communities, according to Stoner.

“Many of them are refugees from other countries who are resettling in the Philadelphia area,” she said. “The real impact is not so much on us as an organization as it is on the women and the children and the families we serve. That’s where the devastation really comes in.”

Stoner noted that the Women’s Service Program initially was the budget line for the Real Alternatives to Abortion program set up by Governor Casey 30 years ago.

“Now they’re using that line item to put out a new funding program,” she added. “It’s the same funding source, but they’re changing the intent of the program. The new funding doesn’t address women’s social and emotional needs or their parenting needs.”

Stoner explained that Catholic charitable organizations and ministries do not qualify as providers based on the criteria in the new funding program, which focuses solely on the medical and health needs of women.

“They are excluded from that as well as any of the pregnancy resource centers or maternity homes that are currently funded by Real Alternatives,” she said. “We provide a lot of support services that healthcare providers cannot provide.

“Our focus is to help support the moms and their families in making sure that they get prenatal care and that they do their follow-up visits. If there is an obstacle to getting to their visits, we can help them break through those obstacles and provide support and all kinds of services and resources.”

The potential loss of funding will likely have a significant impact on the clients who receive pregnancy support services through Catholic Social Services.

“It will have a huge impact for all the families that we have served and will serve,” Stoner said. “I don’t want to speculate at this time, but I’m thinking about how we will continue to provide these vital services because they align with our mission at Catholic Social Services, and they align with the Church.”

For information about CSS Pregnancy Support Services: