Program credited with reducing abortions coming to Michigan

Pilot program to offer alternatives to women, but more funding needed

Detroit — Hot off the heals of one major pro-life legislative success in Michigan, efforts are under way to continue the momentum begun by the passage of the Abortion Insurance Opt-Out Act in early December.

Now, Catholic officials in Lansing are working to bring an abortion alternatives program to Michigan that’s shown remarkable success in reducing the number of abortions in other states.

Real Alternatives, a nonprofit that facilitates a statewide network of pregnancy resource services for women in crisis pregnancies, is credited with helping reduce the number of abortions in Pennsylvania for the past four years, said Rebecca Mastee, a policy advocate for the Michigan Catholic Conference.

Mastee, who called Real Alternatives the “ultimate women’s empowerment program,” said word has begun to spread about the initiative’s success in diverting women in crisis pregnancies to resources that can help.

Real Alternatives works by providing women in unexpected pregnancies with a toll-free hotline that can connect them with a local qualified pregnancy resource center, social services, adoption agencies or maternity homes.

“These service providers are carefully evaluated and approved to provide women with pregnancy counseling, prenatal health information, and parenting support and education,” Mastee said, as well as material needs such as clothing, diapers and formula.

In Pennsylvania, an increase in the number of women served by Real Alternatives in each of the past four years has coincided with a drop in statewide abortions in each of those years. Mastee attributed the difference to television and radio advertising campaigns promoting the available services to women in need.

“In Philadelphia, Real Alternatives data indicate that when commercials run that advertise the hotline, the number of phone calls can increase from roughly 10 per week to around 40 per day,” Mastee said, which is a direct result of funding levels.

“When it became apparent how this type of policy benefits women in crisis situations it was just a matter of time before the pieces fell into place” for bringing the program to Michigan, Mastee said, adding that a pilot program is beginning that will serve those in the southern part of the state. The program serves women from the beginning stages of pregnancy until 12 months after birth.

Although the pilot program has been appropriated $700,000 from Michigan’s Department of Community Health, more will be needed to expand it throughout the state, Mastee said.

Michigan legislators are expected to finish work on the state’s budget by mid-April. Those interested in supporting the Real Alternatives initiative can learn more by signing up for the Michigan Catholic Conference’s Catholic Advocacy Network updates at www.micatholic.org/can.