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Stakeholders Voice Concerns About Ind. Health Dept. Contract With Antiabortion-Rights Organization

Stakeholders Voice Concerns About Ind. Health Dept. Contract With Antiabortion-Rights Organization

October 14, 2015 — Several stakeholders have expressed concern about a recent decision by the Indiana Department of Health to grant a one-year, $3.5 million contract to an antiabortion-rights organization that counsels women against abortion and provides misleading information about the procedure, the Indianapolis Star reports (Rudavsky, Indianapolis Star, 10/13).

Details of Program

The organization, called Real Alternatives, is a not-for-profit that operates in Indiana, Pennsylvania and Michigan. According to the AP/Sacramento Bee, service providers -- including 14 "pregnancy support centers" and one social service provider -- working with the organization are prohibited from affiliating with entities that offer abortion services or support abortion rights. Further, service providers are not allowed to use Real Alternatives' "abortion alternative" funding to endorse birth control (Slodysko, AP/Sacramento Bee, 10/12).

Last October, Real Alternatives used a $1 million contract to launch a pilot program in northern Indiana. Under the new contract, Real Alternatives will receive funding from the federal Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program to expand to other parts of the state. According to a release from Pence's office, current federal TANF funds granted to the state will cover the new contract with Real Alternatives, meaning that funding for other services and programs will not be affected.

Meanwhile, Pennsylvania Auditor General Eugene DePasquale said he plans to audit Real Alternatives, after the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette found that some entities in the state that had contracted with the organization were misinforming women about abortion and failing to disclose their antiabortion-rights stance (Indianapolis Star, 10/13).

Stakeholders Express Concerns About Announcement, Real Alternatives

In a statement, Indiana Democratic Party spokesperson Drew Anderson said, "Not only are there transparency issues associated with this deal, but the organization uses questionable and partisan research in their assessment of health behaviors," adding, "The Administration owes taxpayers answers on how their money is being spent" (AP/Sacramento Bee, 10/12).

Abby Hunt, executive director of Health Care Education & Training, also expressed concern about Real Alternatives, noting that the organization refers women to crisis pregnancy centers instead of to health providers. "I think that true health care for women who are pregnant is giving them all of the tools that they would need to have a healthy pregnancy and avoid another crisis pregnancy, and that would be access to health care and contraception," she said.

Meanwhile, Beth Headrick, director of communications for Planned Parenthood of Indiana and Kentucky, said in an email to the Star that the state should do more to improve prenatal health care services. "In an ideal world, the governor would first focus on well-informed decision-making when it comes to one's sexual behavior, their health and pregnancy," she wrote, adding, "We will continue to seek support for comprehensive, medically accurate and age-appropriate sexuality education so that Hoosiers understand the consequences of becoming sexually active. Planned Parenthood is all about exactly that -- PLANNED parenthood" (Indianapolis Star, 10/13).