Editor’s note. This exclusive interview was given to Indiana Right to Life, NRLC’s state affiliate.
In November 2015, Governor Mike Pence announced that Indiana would move forward with a statewide $3.5 million expansion of a national program called Real Alternatives designed to help abortion-vulnerable women to choose life. Here in an exclusive interview, Governor Pence shares why he believes this program is so vital to the future of Indiana.
Q: Recently you announced a $3.5 million expansion of the Real Alternatives program in Indiana. Tell us about the Real Alternatives program and what services will be offered.
Gov. Pence: Real Alternatives provides financial support and other resources to existing pregnancy centers, adoption agencies, maternity homes, and social service agencies. These organizations provide a wide variety of core services for Hoosiers such as information, education, and counseling that promote childbirth rather than abortion. They also assist pregnant women in their decisions regarding adoption or parenting and provide support services such as baby food, maternity clothes, baby clothes, and referrals for other services that clients may need (such as housing, employment, etc.).
Q: Prior to announcing the expansion, Indiana piloted the Real Alternatives program in the northern part of the state beginning in 2014. What were the results of the pilot program in terms of the number of women served and the number of centers participating?
Gov. Pence: When we launched the one-year Real Alternatives pilot program in northern Indiana, we estimated that 3,000 clients would be served. However, at the close of the pilot program, 8,737 clients had been served through 17,445 visits at 16 different service sites.
Q: Why is Real Alternatives important to the greater well-being of Indiana?
Gov. Pence: Real Alternatives provides positive, life-affirming services for Hoosier women and families. It is important to not only ensure that pregnant women receive proper prenatal care, but also the emotional and physical support they need for a healthy pregnancy. Real Alternatives helps ensure that women in need are connected with all the community and social services resources available to them to support them both during and after their pregnancy.
Q: Is the Real Alternatives expansion program statewide or limited to certain areas?
Gov. Pence: Qualified service providers statewide may now apply to participate in this successful program.
Q: The Real Alternatives program in other states has operated with the highest standards of stewardship and accountability. Was this a key factor in expanding the program in Indiana?
Gov. Pence: Absolutely. We know that Real Alternatives has long had a good reputation in Pennsylvania for the quality services they provide and the fiscal accountability within which they operate. As Indiana considered this program, we wanted to ensure that taxpayer dollars were being spent in a wise and responsible manner.
Q: How much do women have to pay for services offered through the Real Alternatives program?
Gov. Pence: Any organization that participates in the Real Alternatives program must be non-profit and may not charge for any services rendered. This allows all Hoosiers to access services free of charge.
Q: Critics of the program have attacked it because Real Alternatives does not advocate or counsel for abortion in any way. How do you respond to those critics?
Gov. Pence: Indiana law states that “childbirth is preferred, encouraged, and supported over abortion” (IC 16-34-1-1). The services provided by Real Alternatives are perfectly in line not only with Indiana statute, but also with Hoosier values. And I believe that the program’s pro-life worldview is a benefit to the services it provides.
Q: What is your heart’s desire for the long term impact on Real Alternatives in Indiana?
Gov. Pence: My hope is that more women who find themselves with an unplanned pregnancy would be able to receive the education, assistance, and support that Real Alternatives provides in order to ensure a healthy pregnancy, and that through these services, we would be able to better support Hoosier families across the state.
Q: What encouragement would you give to the pro-life pregnancy resource center staff and volunteers throughout Indiana who have labored for years to provide loving support for women facing unplanned pregnancies?
Gov. Pence: I would like to express my heartfelt appreciation and gratitude to all the men and women who volunteer their time, their treasure, and their talent to support women who are faced with an unplanned pregnancy. Because of their selfless dedication, life is winning in Indiana. I would encourage each of them to continue to fight the good fight, to come alongside their friends and neighbors in need, to promote compassion over convenience, and to offer hope over despair. Together, we can continue to promote a culture of life in Indiana.