Saturday, April 21, 2007

Real Alternatives

In 1995, Pennsylvania started a bold, state-funded initiative to reduce the number of abortions by providing pregnant women the necessary resources to keep their children.

An organisation called Real Alternatives was set up. It has helped abortion rates in the state to fall steadily.

Real Alternatives was established to be the statewide administrator of the Pennsylvania Alternative to Abortions Services Program [PAASP].

With a dedicated staff of 12 and nine board members, they contract with 120 service providers made up of pregnancy support centers, social service agencies like Catholic Charities, adoption agencies and maternity homes throughout the state to reach out to women in unplanned or crisis pregnancies.

In fiscal year 1996, they served 6,715 women statewide with 72 centers. In fiscal year 2005, they served 16,600 women with 120 centers. With the necessary financial resources, centers opened more sites and hired more counselors and continue to serve more women in need.

To date, over 123,000 women have been served under the program.

As a result, state governors and legislatures in Louisiana, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, Florida and Texas placed funding of Alternative to Abortion Services programs in their budgets.

The Texas Health and Human Services Commission signed a $2.5 million a year agreement with Texas Pregnancy Care Network, a nonprofit, to provide statewide government-funded alternatives to abortion using Real Alternatives to replicate the highly recommended Pennsylvania Alternative to Abortion Services in Texas.

The primary purpose of the Alternative to Abortion Services Program is to provide core services consisting of information, education and counseling that promotes childbirth instead of abortion and assists pregnant women in their decision regarding adoption or parenting.

The Program also provides support services including self-administered pregnancy kits, baby food, maternity and baby clothing and baby furniture, information and education, and referrals for other services for the needs of the women and newborn. The information and education provided under support services includes topics regarding infant care, adoption, parenting, or the use of abstinence to avoid unplanned and out-of-wedlock pregnancies.

The enabling legislation for the Alternative to Abortion Services Program authorises the Service Providers to be reimbursed for the free alternative to abortion services they provide to women until childbirth and for up to 12 months post-partum. Services include, but are not strictly limited to:

-pregnancy, childbirth, parenting, and abstinence classes
-adoption information; assistance for post delivery stress
-assistance with food; shelter; clothing; health care
-other supportive programs and services for related outreach programs.

As we in Britain approach the 40th Anniversary (in October) of the passing of the Abortion Act 1967, it would be opportune if the Government introduced similar state funding for such programs here. However, unfortunately, in the present climate, it might be best not to hold your breath !

Abortion rates in the UK continue to rise steadily and show no sign of falling.