Pennsylvania Crisis Pregnancy Program Celebrates 10,000 Calls
by Maria Gallagher
LifeNews.com Staff Writer
May 6, 2004
Harrisburg, PA (LifeNews.com) — A life-saving Pennsylvania program is celebrating a milestone. Real Alternatives, a government-funded program offering alternatives to abortion, has just fielded its 10,000th call.
The innovative Pennsylvania program, which was the first of its kind in the nation, relies on a combination of federal and state dollars to provide alternatives to abortion.
"No one likes to be alone. It is even worse to be alone (when facing) a personal crisis," said Heather Misiti, a telephone hotline counselor for Real Alternatives. "I feel honored everyday to speak with women who have doubts and fears about their unplanned pregnancy and have the courage to make that one phone call."
"With the support and resources from this program, I love seeing them transform from being scared and alone to taking control of their lives for themselves and their babies," Misiti added.
The program’s hotline number (1-888-LIFE-AID) has popped up on buses, on television, in newspapers–virtually everywhere throughout Pennsylvania. According to pro-life leaders in the Keystone State, the hotline has become a lifeline for women throughout the Commonwealth.
"Real Alternatives has made a difference for thousands of women and children," said Mary Beliveau, Legislative Director for the Pennsylvania Pro-Life Federation, the state’s largest pro-life organization.
"Women’s lives have been changed and countless lives have been saved as a result of this program. It’s become a model for the nation," Beliveau added.
According to Kevin Bagatta, CEO of Real Alternatives, the toll-free referral program is unique.
"Once a woman, from anywhere in the Commonwealth, calls toll-free, she receives initial crisis intervention counseling," Bagatta said.
The woman is then asked for her zip code and she is connected to another counselor located at her closest pregnancy support center, social service agency, adoption agency, or maternity home.
But the support does not end with that initial phone call. "The woman talks with a counselor in her community who can be with her through the crisis pregnancy and 12 months afterward," Bagatta said.
As a result, the woman can receive comprehensive support–not only while she’s carrying the baby, but also throughout the child’s infancy.
Pennsylvania is now home to some 125 Real Alternatives-funded centers–according to Bagatta, that means there is a center within 45 minutes of every woman in the Commonwealth.
In addition to the bus, television, and newspaper advertising, the hotline number is also promoted through radio ads and in local phone books. Since 1997, more than $3 million in advertising has been spent to reach women in need of support during their pregnancies.
More than 85,000 women have been served by Pennsylvania’s alternatives to abortion program since it was launched in 1995.
The program has continued to receive enthusiastic support from state lawmakers and from Bush Administration officials, who view it as a government program that really works.
"We’re thankful to the Pennsylvania legislature for providing the state funds for this program," Beliveau said. "We’re also thankful to the Bush Administration, which allowed the use of federal dollars for this critical program." Those federal dollars come from Temporary Assistance to Families in Need (TANF), the program which replaced welfare in the late 1990s.
According to Beliveau, the Pennsylvania program has been so successful that it has inspired officials in other states to consider adopting similar programs.