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Finding Real Alternatives to Abortion

4/20/2007 - 5:55 AM PST

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Interview With Official of Pro-life Government-Funded Agency

HARRISBURG, Pennsylvania, APRIL 20, 2007 (Zenit) - In 1995, Pennsylvania started a bold, state-funded initiative to reduce the number of abortions by providing pregnant women the necessary resources to keep their children.

In this interview with us, Kevin Bagatta, president & chief executive officer of Real Alternatives, (www.realalternatives.org/aboutus), discusses the Pennsylvania Alternative to Abortion Services Program and how it has helped abortion rates in the state to fall steadily.

Q: How did you get involved in Real Alternatives?

Bagatta: My three brothers and I were born and raised on Long Island, New York. Both of our parents are handicapped. My Italian-American dad, a World War II veteran, walks with cane and a brace and my Irish-American mom became paralyzed with polio during the polio epidemic.

They both taught us -- and still do -- the true value of life. Having watched the culture of death practiced by Nazi Germany, they immediately explained to my brothers and I how wrong the Roe vs. Wade decision was that legalized abortion in America and the ill effects it would have on our country.

Q: Real Alternatives seeks to encourage childbirth instead of abortion. How did it begin?

Bagatta: In 1994, Pennsylvania Governor Robert Casey placed alternative to abortion services program funding in the state budget.

In 1995, I answered an advertisement in the local newspaper from a pro-life organization looking for a director to start a statewide government-funded program.

Real Alternatives was established to be the statewide administrator of the Pennsylvania Alternative to Abortions Services Program [PAASP].

With a dedicated staff of 12 and nine board members, we contract with 120 service providers made up of pregnancy support centers, social service agencies like Catholic Charities, adoption agencies and maternity homes throughout the state to reach out to women in unplanned or crisis pregnancies.

The concept of government-funded social services is not new.

Well over 30 years ago, the state saw nonprofit charitable agencies that served women who were in a unique crisis either due to domestic violence or rape, and decided to fund them so they would provide more service and reach more women.

With PAASP, the state saw nonprofit charitable agencies serving women who uniquely experience another type of crisis -- an unplanned pregnancy. By funding these nonprofit charities, the centers would be able to have the necessary resources to reach more women.

That is exactly what has happened. In fiscal year 1996, we served 6,715 women statewide with 72 centers. In fiscal year 2005, we served 16,600 women with 120 centers. With the necessary financial resources, centers opened more sites and hired more counselors and continue to serve more women in need. To date, over 123,000 women have been served under the program.

Q: Does Real Alternatives have appeal for abortion-advocates as well?

Bagatta: It ought to. Once there is a crisis pregnancy, this is the only program established to help a woman in need choose life. By providing a counselor to be with the woman in need from the moment she finds out she is pregnant to 12 months after the birth of the baby, this program empowers the mother to overcome her obstacles and crisis. She is not alone. She knows someone is with her to help her.

An alternative to abortion is not a pamphlet, it is another person; it is one woman seeing another woman in crisis and loving her and supporting her like she is her own daughter. This program represents the best in America.

Q: Recently you began working with faith-based organizations. How does that teamwork happen, practically speaking?

Bagatta: This has been a greatly welcomed change in our ability to use experienced service providers to serve women throughout the state.

Again, due to interpretation of U.S. Supreme Court First Amendment cases, we were restricted in the type of faith-based organizations we were allowed to contract due to the program being funded with government money.

Thanks to President George Bush's Faith-Based Initiative Executive Order, all entities administering government funds are allowed to contract with faith-based organizations as long as the faith-based organization keeps their promotion of religion separate from the government-funded service.

Now, women can receive our government-funded service from a faith-based organization like Catholic Charities and also receive religious services and support.

Q: Your program recommends abstinence for young people. What is the most difficult part of educating youth in ...

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