“We’ve already succeeded in beating back efforts to line-item the funds from committee and on the Senate floor,” Maluchnik told CNA via email.
“As out-of-state, pro-abortion organizations have spent at least six figures to defund the program, MCC continues to speak with administration officials and lawmakers on both sides of the aisle as budget discussions continue.”
According to Real Alternatives’ estimates, the Michigan program has served 8,240 women at 31,958 support visits since 2014. The state has appropriated $3.3 million to the program since its inception.
“Citizens want to help these women. This is the fastest way to lower abortions,” Real Alternatives founding CEO Kevin Bagatta told CNA.
“Citizens are happy that their taxpayer monies are being used to help their fellow citizens in an unexpected pregnancy.”
If a woman is alone and poor, she may struggle with the pressures of an unexpected pregnancy, he said. What the Real Alternatives program does is provide a counselor, who helps the woman from conception until 12 months after the baby's birth, training her how to take care of the baby and herself.
The counselor acts as a mentor— like a big sister, he said, or maybe even the mother they never had— to help to relieve some of the stress and pressures of pregnancy. He noted that it is primarily a counseling program, not a medical program, although the program offers referrals for medical needs, and saves the state of Michigan money that it might have otherwise spent on additional medical care for pregnant women.
All together, he said, the program has served close to 400,000 women across all the states where it operates since its founding 24 years ago. Over the years, he said, numerous clients come back having finished a nursing degree to volunteer at the very center that helped them.
In Michigan, Real Alternatives uses a network of 15 pregnancy support centers, as well as several Catholic Charities affiliates, to provide its services to women.
According to the Michigan state health department, Real Alternatives is receiving $700,000 in funding for FY 2019, with $650,000 of that coming from federal grants and $50,000 from the state general fund.
Pennsylvania and beyond
Bagatta was one of the original founders of Real Alternatives, which was founded and is still headquartered in Pennsylvania. He said the Pennsylvania program alone has served over 308,000 women since its inception, and has inspired pro-life groups in other states to start similar programs. He said they've helped about 14 states so far to start similar programs whereby the state helps to fund the pregnancy support network.
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“We're really no different from domestic violence and rape crisis programs,” he explained.
“In those programs you have a certain client, a woman who's vulnerable...and what this program is it's, again, another vulnerable client, the woman who's in an unexpected pregnancy.”
Bagatta noted that research done in the 1980s found that about 80% of women who had procured an abortion who were surveyed said that they would not have gone through with the procedure if just one person had taken the time to help them.
In 1996, then-Pennsylvania Governor Bob Casey put funding in the state budget for alternatives to abortion services. Bagatta said this was the first time that a state used government funding for pregnancy centers and Catholic Charities to promote childbirth as an alternative to abortion for women facing unintended pregnancies.
Today, Real Alternatives runs the Indiana, Pennsylvania, and Michigan programs from their base in Harrisburg. They helped to start a similar program in Texas.
In 2013, Real Alternatives was asked by the Michigan Catholic Conference to help to explain the program to then-Governor Rick Snyder, who put money in the budget to start the state’s program.