7810 Allentown Blvd. Suite 304
Harrisburg, PA 17112
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Press Kit - FAQ
Frequently Asked Questions
Real Alternatives often receives media inquiries about its work as
the prime contractor for the award-winning Pennsylvania Alternative to
Abortion Services Program. In an effort to respond to those media
inquiries, we have assembled answers to questions we have been asked
in the past.
What is the purpose of the Pennsylvania Alternative to Abortion
Services Program? What is an alternative to abortion?
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 authorizes 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
Service Providers participating in this Program will ensure that
women who are pregnant, think they are, or have a child under 12
months of age have access to the above mentioned services.
Real Alternatives, through the Service Providers, offers a
comprehensive umbrella of core and support services that provide
women direct support during and after the crisis pregnancy. This
umbrella of services also includes programs to encourage new
lifestyle choices that will prevent crisis pregnancies in the
For those in a crisis pregnancy, core services are delivered by
providing direct counseling support during the parenting and
adoption decision. Services include:
counseling and case management in a non-judgmental atmosphere
education on fetal development and the health and nutritional
needs of pregnant women, through the use of books, videos,
brochures, and fetal models
pre- and post-natal education; pregnancy and certified childbirth
access to information on medical care, hospital clinics, doctors,
health care facilities, and other professional services;
assistance with identifying drug and alcohol programs, if needed
adoption service information
life-skills training for parenting and nutritional needs
availability of other community social services
tangible aid in the form of maternity clothes
referrals to maternity homes
other programs for the physical and emotional needs of the women
experiencing the stress of a crisis pregnancy.
For women who have given birth, support services are delivered by
providing direct parenting or adoption support because of their
decision not to abort. Such services take the form of:
parenting counseling and classes
education referrals for upgrading skills or obtaining a GED
child care referrals
information on Women Infants and Children (WIC) programs
job service and vocational training opportunities availability
tangible aid in the form of baby and infant items and other needed
For those who come to our Service Providers thinking they are
experiencing a crisis pregnancy, self-administered pregnancy test
kits are available. For those in this category who are not pregnant,
support services are delivered by providing:
information on the risks of sexually transmitted diseases
teen pregnancy prevention programs with the goal of modifying
risk-taking behavior that lowers out-of-wedlock births and sexually
This umbrella of services provided by the Service Providers
enables Real Alternatives to provide direct core and support
services statewide so women do not feel the need to have an abortion
now or in the future, and to provide support programs that
effectively prevent the circumstances that might lead to an
unplanned pregnancy and abortion in the first place.
With the ability to provide a wide array of services to women in
need at the local level, a woman is able to make more informed
choices concerning her child, as well as begin to plan for a future
that will include independence and self-sufficiency. The linkage of
these services over a longer period of time provides a better
opportunity for counselors to help women who wish to change their
status from a dependent mother to an independent mother.
Does this Program provide abortion or abortion referrals? Why don’t
you provide abortion as an option to women in a crisis pregnancy?
We provide life-affirming pregnancy support services only and state
such in our advertising and to our clients. This program exists to provide comprehensive support so a woman does
not need to undergo an abortion. The program is prohibited by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and the
Department of Public Welfare from promoting, referring, or counseling
Who are the Service Providers? What qualifications do the
counselors and mentors have?
The network of Service Providers is composed of pregnancy support
centers, maternity homes, social service agencies and adoption
agencies. All of these groups are required to be experienced
and qualified in providing core pregnancy support services that
promote childbirth over abortion for a period of at least one year
prior to beginning the review process towards potentially becoming a
Program Service Provider. The approval process is rigorous and takes a
considerable period of time prior to approval being considered. Real
Alternatives analyzes all aspects of the potential Service Provider's
operations including its corporate structure and documentation, its
operational policies and procedures, its staff training materials, its
client education materials and programs, as well as an on-site
inspection of all areas utilized in providing client services. Any
deficiencies in the potential Service Provider’s operations must be
corrected prior to approval being considered.
The majority of our service providers employ counselors who have
bachelor's and master's degrees in social work or nursing. Like other
state social service programs, some service providers also use trained
volunteer mentors to assist our clients.
Does this Program only concern itself with the baby?
No, the stated purpose of this is a program to serve the women of the
Commonwealth. Because this is an “alternative to abortion” program, a
common misunderstanding is that the main service reimbursed for in the
Program is decision-making support, i.e., counseling as to whether to
carry a pregnancy to term or to terminate (abort) a pregnancy. While
decision-making support is the core service offered by all of Real
Alternatives-funded service providers, the majority of reimbursable
services occur after an expectant mom has made the decision to choose
childbirth. This is because the period of eligibility to receive
Program services extends not only throughout pregnancy, but also after
the child is born.
A program-eligible client is defined as: (1) a legal U.S. and
Pennsylvania resident female who is pregnant, possibly pregnant, or
the biological parent of a child 12 months old or younger; or, (2) a
legal U.S. and Pennsylvania resident male who is the biological father
of an unborn child, accompanies his possibly pregnant wife or
girlfriend, or is the biological parent of a child 12 months old or
younger. In other words, parents of infants receive services for a
longer period of time than expectant parents, and are therefore the
most eligible beneficiaries of Program services.
The scope of services that Real Alternatives reimburses for is
comprehensive. Education, counseling, mentoring and classes cover many
topics relevant to new and expecting parents, such as child care,
financial responsibility, nutrition, healthy relationships, breast
feeding, and anger management. Real Alternatives also reimburses its
providers for work done on behalf of a client, including time spent
making a WIC appointment or setting up a job interview for a client.
On a limited basis, Real Alternatives reimburses its service providers
for providing free materials assistance to their clients, such as
diapers, maternity and baby clothes, and baby furniture. This is the
only statewide state program that provides maternity clothes for
While many services are reimbursable, some are not. For example, Real
Alternatives does not reimburse ultrasound or ultrasound counseling;
post-abortion counseling; or spiritual counseling or religious
How are Service Providers funded by Real Alternatives?
The Service Providers technically are not “funded” in the sense of
receiving a general grant in support of their work. Rather, it’s more
accurate to say that the Service Providers earn their pay and are
“reimbursed” for very specific services delivered. This is because
Real Alternatives’ relationship with each Service Provider is based on
a fee-for-services contract, not a grant. Thus, Real Alternatives only
pays its Service Providers for actual time spent delivering services:
no more, no less.
Some have accused “crisis pregnancy centers” in other
states of practices that are deceptive to or manipulative of the
clients they serve. Does Real Alternatives contract with organizations
like that as Service Providers?
Absolutely not. Although Real Alternatives is not familiar with
centers with those kinds of practices, regardless, Real Alternatives
takes measures to ensure that it only contracts with organizations
that provide compassionate and caring client services. Misleading a
woman in crisis pregnancy about the scope of available services is not
only dishonest, it is neither compassionate nor caring. Real
Alternatives reviews each potential Service Provider’s phone procedures and
advertisements to ensure potential clients are made aware that only
alternatives to abortion are provided. Real Alternatives and its
Service Providers would never advertise under “Abortion Services,
Real Alternatives telephone counselors explain that we do not provide
abortion services nor provide referrals for abortions, but we can
connect them with support services that have been received by over
125,000 women to date.
Real Alternatives believes it is neither compassionate nor caring
counseling to attempt client education using graphic descriptions,
images, or videos of aborted fetuses. This is why Real Alternatives
disallows the use of such materials in the Program, regardless of
whether the client consents to see them.
Similarly, it is neither compassionate nor caring to delay the results
of a pregnancy test that only takes 5-7 minutes to complete.
Accordingly, Real Alternatives reviews each potential Service Provider’s
pregnancy-testing and other intake procedures to make sure nothing
could contribute to the anxiety of a woman experiencing a crisis
What are Real Alternatives restrictions regarding participation in
the Program by faith-based organizations?
Real Alternatives reimburses its Service Providers using federal money
made available to Pennsylvania pursuant to a funding stream known as
TANF (Temporary Assistance for Needy Families). Under the federal
Charitable Choice Act, an organization is not precluded from
participating in a TANF-funded Program just because it has a
faith-based mission or character. But if that organization conducts
religious or spiritual activities, it must do so separately, in time
or location, from the TANF-funded activities.
Real Alternatives – funded Service Providers must agree to comply with
the Charitable Choice Act, but also with an additional measure to
ensure that client participation in any spiritual or religious
activities is completely voluntary.
Real Alternatives-funded Service Providers must agree not to conduct
activities of worship, religious instruction, proselytization or other
religious programs during the delivery of Program services. They must
also agree to deliver Program services using a different person than
any person that delivers spiritual or religious services to a client.
This “separate counselor” requirement is a unique Real Alternatives
requirement, and is based on a client-centered policy to ensure a
client receiving Program services never feels pressured by the person
delivering those services to participate in religious or spiritual
activities. If a client does want to participate in religious or
spiritual activities, the Service Provider must obtain her written
consent, and assure her that if at any time she chooses not to
continue with the religious activities, that the Program services will
still be available.
In addition, educational books or brochures that contain religious or
spiritual content must not be presented to the client during the
delivery of Program services, and must be housed separately (and
labeled) from non-spiritual materials on bookshelves and racks, if
made available to clients for browsing.
Does Real Alternatives reimburse for adoption placement?
No. With respect to adoption, Real Alternatives only reimburses for
neutral counseling (decision-making as to whether to parent or adopt),
up to the point the adoption decision is made. Thereafter, placement
activities, such as parent selection, etc., are not reimbursed by Real
Alternatives. On a limited basis, Real Alternatives also reimburses
for post-adoption grief counseling.
Do participating Service Providers provide medical services?
While some of Real Alternatives Service Providers may offer limited
medical services, such as ultrasound or STD testing, Real Alternatives
does not reimburse its providers for these services. As is typical of
social service programs this Program is a counseling, mentoring and
support program and not intended to be medical. Real Alternatives –
funded Service Providers are no different than any other
community-based, social service organizations, such as rape crisis
centers or domestic violence centers that provide counseling,
mentoring, education and related support to women and their families
in crisis. Of course, Real Alternatives-funded Service Providers make
appropriate referrals for their clients to other community resources,
whether for medical services or otherwise.
The value of Real Alternatives-funded Service Providers is in no way
diminished because they don’t provide medical services. On the
contrary, the value of these organizations is derived from the fact
that they provide unique crisis counseling and mentoring services most
medical providers do not provide to women experiencing a crisis
pregnancy: professional peer counseling, mentoring, education classes,
and materials assistance.
Do Real Alternatives-funded Service Providers do “clinic protests”
or similar activities?
No. Nor does Real Alternatives reimburse for any activities that
resemble political activism. Further, Real Alternatives disapproves of
any client educational materials used by its Service Providers that
are political, judgmental, or reflect activist sentiments, in tone or
Real Alternatives itself is non-political and non-partisan.
What is Real Alternatives' relationship to Texas Pregnancy Care
Network (TPCN), the Texas non-profit corporation in charge of that state’s
Real Alternatives and Texas Pregnancy Care Network are separate
nonprofit corporations. The State of Texas through its Health and
Human Services Commission selected Texas Pregnancy Care Network in a
competitive bid to be the prime contractor and program administrator
for the Texas Alternative to Abortion Services Program. TPCN proposed
replicating the Pennsylvania Alternative to Abortion Services Program
in Texas and contracted with Real Alternatives to assist it in its
start-up and initial administration of the Program. Real Alternatives
has earned the reputation in Pennsylvania as a fiscally-responsible
and trusted custodian of public funds. Recognizing this success and
reputation, HHSC approved of TPCN replicating the
Pennsylvania Program and contracting with Real Alternatives as its
consultant, which licensed its Program, materials and methods in order
to keep startup and administrative costs to a minimum while
efficiently rolling out services across Texas.
does Real Alternatives select appropriate materials for purchase to be
used with clients?
Real Alternatives only purchases educational materials that meet high
quality standards. All materials must be relevant to services
delivered to Real Alternatives’ target audience, which is comprised of
(1) legal U.S. and Pennsylvania resident females who are pregnant,
possibly pregnant, or the biological parent of a child 12 months old
or younger; or, (2) legal U.S. and Pennsylvania resident males who are
a biological father of an unborn child, accompanies his possibly
pregnant wife or girlfriend, or is the biological parent of a child 12
months old or younger.
Materials that recite health statistics and/or
describe medical risks must be recently published and must include
citations to legitimate authorities, such as the Centers for Disease
Control, or otherwise reputable medical literature. Finally, all
publishers of the educational material guarantee the information
provided in the education material is accurate and current as of the
date of the order.
Real Alternatives does not purchase any materials that are political,
judgmental, reflect activist sentiments, or that contain spiritual or
How do Real Alternatives’ Service Providers approach discussing
some of the conflicting science and medical issues regarding abortion
Real Alternatives Service Providers are encouraged to keep abreast of
current developments and to stay informed regarding such matters. They
must always remain ethical and honest in their dealings with their
clients, and are trained and educated to recognize that providing
dishonest information is not only unethical and wrong, but that it is
ineffective in developing the necessary relationship of trust with the
Nevertheless, new developments in health and science are not
hidden from the clients either as it is the philosophy of Real
Alternatives that the client must be provided with all such relevant
information so that she can make an educated and informed choice about
her health and that of her baby. For example, some studies have shown
that abortion contributes to an increased risk of developing breast
cancer. While there are some studies that continue to deny that risk,
a client should be told of the conflicting information so they can make
the decision for herself as to how she wants to proceed, as opposed to
hiding or withholding such information from her.
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