When the State Mandates Anti-Choice Advocacy

An absolutely fascinating look at how Pennsylvania developed the first set of state-funded "crisis pregnancy centers."

South Dakota may be the first state to mandate every woman visit a “pregnancy help center” before having an abortion, but it is by no means the pioneer when it comes to state-supported (and funded) “crisis pregnancy centers.”

The Philadelphia City Paper has an excellent overview of how the state of Pennsylvania pioneered CPCs as a state-funded network, creating its own system to pressure women out of abortions.

From the article:

More than 500 Real Alternatives counselors work throughout Pennsylvania in 97 anti-abortion sites, which include crisis pregnancy centers, maternity homes, adoption agencies and social-service agencies. (Comparatively, there are 20 abortion clinics in the state.) The vast majority of these Real Alternatives locations are Christian-affiliated agencies. The state contracts with Real Alternatives, and then Real Alternatives subcontracts the counseling work to these sites.

These counselors, of course, meet with women privately. But what happens behind those closed doors is not, thanks to documents obtained by CP, a mystery. According to the 2010-12 agreement between Real Alternatives and the state’s Public Welfare department, the counselors are contractually required to “maintain a pro-life mission” and “agree not to promote, refer or counsel abortion nor abortifacients as an option” — not even, apparently, to women whose lives are at risk because of their pregnancy. Counselors also must “understand” that their centers are paid not “for the provision, referral or advocacy of contraceptive services, drugs or devices.” And they must teach women that abstinence is the “best and only” way of avoiding unplanned pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases.

Unlike counselors recognized by the National Board for Certified Counselors, who must have a master’s degree, the Real Alternatives “counselors” are not required to have any degree at all. He defends this choice, arguing that, “We don’t provide medical services. We provide human services.”

This counseling, it turns out, is not cheap to taxpayers: In the past year, CP has found, the state paid out $4.5 million for counseling services provided by Real Alternatives — including a whopping $63 for every hour of anti-abortion counseling. Comparatively, through Medicaid, it costs the state $20 an hour for a woman to undergo a health screening at a family-planning center, which includes STD testing, a Pap smear and a breast exam, and which is usually performed by a nurse practitioner with an advanced degree. Also through Medicaid, the state reimburses psychologists with doctorates $39 for almost an hour of psychotherapy.

Be sure to read the entirety of this great article.