The Keystone: Pennsylvania launches new women's healthcare program

SOURCE: The Keystone, by Sean Kitchen

The new program uses funding from the now-canceled contract with an anti-abortion group to provide healthcare services to pregnant and parenting women.

The Pennsylvania Department of Human Services last week announced the creation of the Women’s Service Program to provide women’s healthcare services to pregnant or parenting women across the commonwealth.

“[Last] week, the Pennsylvania Department of Human Services released our new Women’s Health Services grants,” Department of Human Services Secretary Val Arkoosh said in an interview with The Keystone. “This totals around $8 million. It is going out to six different regions across the commonwealth to organizations that provide services to women.”

“There’s a whole menu of services that these organizations will be providing around pregnancy, permpartum care, counseling, [and] education. Some organizations are using some of the funds to support menstrual products, parent education, pregnancy, education. A whole gamut of services.”

The new program was created with funding that once went to Real Alternatives, a network of anti-abortion crisis pregnancy centers. Gov. Josh Shapiro announced in August that his administration would cancel the organization’s contract with the commonwealth once it expired at the end of 2023.

This made Pennsylvania the second state, after Michigan, to stop funding the anti-abortion organization.

Real Alternatives was set to receive over $9 million in the 2023-24 Pennsylvania budget, a $2 million bump from the previous year’s. The anti-abortion organization has received over $135 million from the commonwealth since the mid to late 1990’s with at least $21 million coming from the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program, which provides cash assistance to pregnant mothers and needy families.

The new program plans to “support women in an empathetic, culturally-informed way no matter their background, identity, or income, and specifically seeks to assist pregnant women and new mothers through this critical period,” according to the DHS’ website.

A full list of services include:
  • Prenatal care and postpartum supports;
  • Early detection and prevention of health conditions;
  • Parenting education programming;
  • Menstrual and reproductive health education and products as needed;
  • Sexually-transmitted infection testing and care or referrals; and,
  • Referrals for assistance with other physical or behavioral health care needs.
The organizations set to receive grant funding are: Adagio Health, which primarily covers Western Pennsylvania; the Family Health Council of Central Pennsylvania, which covers Central Pennsylvania; Maternal and Family Health Services, which covers the Lehigh Valley and Northeastern Pennsylvania; and the Maternity Care Coalition, which covers Southeastern Pennsylvania.

“We’re grateful the Shapiro Administration finally pulled Pennsylvania out of the grim business of funding anti-abortion careerists and an industry that exploits pregnant people,” Tara Murtha, Director of Strategic Communications at Women’s Law Project, said in a statement.

“We’re celebrating the Administration’s landmark investment into legitimate medical services and compassionate, comprehensive support for pregnant and parenting Pennsylvanians.”