By Maria Gallagher, Legislative Director, Pennsylvania Pro-Life Federation
A woman is under extreme pressure from her boyfriend to abort her baby. Frightened and worried, she decides to go to a pregnancy care center for help. There, thanks to the listening ear of a compassionate counselor, she is able to pour her feelings out. She does not want the abortion, and the counselor stands ready to accompany her during every phase of her pregnancy.
This scenario reoccurs again and again at the nearly 100 pregnancy centers which receive assistance through Pennsylvania’s pregnancy support and parenting program, which is ably administered by Real Alternatives, Inc. During its two decades of service to the women of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, Real Alternatives has been a lifesaver for more than 280,000 women and their families.
It has often been said that a woman facing a challenging pregnancy does not need a pamphlet—she needs a person ready and willing to accompany her on her journey. That personal, one-to-one care is exactly what Real Alternatives provides.
From diapers to day care referrals, from mentoring to maternity clothes, these pregnancy centers offer substantial support and comprehensive counseling to women. The assistance comes not only during a woman’s pregnancy, but up to a year after the birth of her child.
As a result, the Pennsylvania program has become a model for the rest of the nation, with a number of states offering similar outreach to women and their families.
According to Real Alternatives CEO Kevin Bagatta, Esq., “Compassionate trained counselors assess each woman’s situation and assist her in developing a positive approach to her pregnancy. Support during the parenting and adoption decision involves counseling, education, material assistance, and referrals. By empowering women in a crisis pregnancy with this comprehensive support, they no longer feel compelled to choose abortion out of a sense of helplessness, hopelessness, and of being completely alone.”
For Real Alternatives, the statistics tell much of the story. For a modest investment of state resources, the results are priceless. For instance, 85% of the women who entered the program who were pressured by others to abort choose childbirth.
The program also pays for itself in other ways. Women who visit Real Alternatives centers are far more likely to receive prenatal care, reducing their risk of giving birth to low-birth weight babies. They are also more likely to keep up to date with their children’s immunizations.
Real Alternatives also strives for excellence in the area of fiscal responsibility. It has received the “Seal of Excellence” from the Pennsylvania Association of Nonprofit Organizations and has had 20 consecutive perfect audits.
But what has been truly impressive is how Real Alternatives has touched the hearts and lives of not only the women it serves, but those in the broader community.
Real Alternatives and all pregnancy help centers are motivated by the sure knowledge that there are no such things as unimportant lives, no “surplus” that can or should be discarded. Every life counts. Every act of kindness to a woman in a crisis pregnancy counts.
Consider these words of admiration from Deena Burnett, widow of Flight 93’s Todd Burnett, one of the heroes of 9/11:
“…I’m certain that the little things you do every day have a greater impact than you may realize. You have the opportunity to make an incredible difference in the life of everyone you meet. In a word, to be a hero. When learning about the difference that your work makes, I was reminded how one life, one life saved can make an incredible difference.”