Indiana Governor Mike Penis, er, I mean Pence, continues the Republican war on women and his own personal endless quest to deny them as many services as possible. On Monday, the Guv announced plans to expand a program that had been tested in northern Indiana into a state-wide venture, partnering with Real Alternatives, a stridently anti-abortion group from Pennsylvania. The contract will cost taxpayers $3.5 million.
Real Alternatives provides some good and necessary services, such as counseling to women who are pregnant, providing parenting support during pregnancy and up to 12 months after a child’s birth. No problem there! The issue comes from their fervent opposition to abortion and their anti-contraceptive stance.
The group is currently under investigation by Pennsylvania State Auditor Eugene DePasquale. Concerns about the promotion of religion by some faith-based groups and certain questions that are being asked of women seeking services from Real Alternatives in Pennsylvania seem to be the primary motivation for the investigation, says the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. According to the newspaper, “…Real Alternatives’ grant agreement [with the state of Pennsylvania] bars ‘promot[ing] the teachings or philosophy of any religion or religious organization” with state money.’ Still, the agreement allows providers to display ‘materials of a religious or spiritual nature’ and ask a woman questions such as ‘Does she believe in God?’ and ‘How does her faith impact the choices she makes?’”
These are a direct violation of the First Amendment, yet the organization claims it does not promote any religious beliefs and uses these questions merely to “'[paint] a picture … of this woman’s value system’ and support network.”
The more troubling aspect of their contracts with various states (which are primarily running pilot programs) is that NO provider may discuss abortion at all, nor do they always make their strident anti-abortion stance clear to potential program participants. Even more troubling, no provider can discuss any method of contraceptive other than abstinence.
As we all know from the Bristol Palin experience, abstinence-only programs work so well!
So where does Governor Penis plan on getting the $3.5 million for this contract? Why, by taking food out of the mouths of poor children, of course. The $3.5 million is being taken from the Temporary Assistance Program for Needy Families, a federal program that replaced AFDC in the 1990s. For starters, there is no means testing for participating in the Real Alternatives program. According to the governor’s spokesperson Kara Brooks, any woman may use the services regardless of income. Considering the funding source, this is a very disturbing aspect, plus the fact that the organization is not providing any real assistance to needy families would seem to be a violation of federal law. Add to this the fact that Real Alternatives is ensuring that there will be even more families with children in need by failing to provide information on contraceptives is mind-boggling. Way to go, Guv!!
A more appropriate and logical source of funding would be the Safety PIN program, an $11 million initiative to reduce Indiana’s absurdly high infant mortality rate, one of the highest in the country. Oh! But once the fetus slides out of the birth canal and is no longer a fetus, it is no longer loved by the likes of Governor Mikey and his minions! At that point the child is just a burden on society to be shunned and ridiculed and denied. Instead of taking money from a program that actually deals with fetuses, apparently it is better to ensure that poor families with children are denied funds to help keep a roof over their heads, heat in the house, and food on the table. How unfortunate that those already born cannot remain fetuses forever and thus loved and adored always by certain elements in our society.
Governor Penis has a very long history of wanting to punish women for their sexuality. Then-Congressman Mikey was notorious for repeatedly introducing legislation to prevent distribution of Title X funds to any entity that provides abortion, no matter how small a part of the services offered involved abortion. Title X is the only federal program that funds reproductive health and family planning. In 2011 he introduced an amendment that would have denied all federal funds to Planned Parenthood by name. That same year he wanted to shut down the federal government over funding to that organization, just as his Republican teabagger buddies in the House want to do now. Deja Vu all over again!
From his Congressional crusade against Planned Parenthood to his demands for investigation into the organization’s “selling baby parts” (an investigation that uncovered NO wrong-doing on the part of PP) to the current state-sponsored contract with an activist anti-abortion, anti-contraceptive group, Indiana’s governor continues the GOP war on women and women’s health.
Sadly, Indiana has much to lose from a loss of funding to Planned Parenthood. According to an article by Maureen Groppe of USA Today, “About two-thirds of Hoosier women who get contraceptive services at a publicly funded center do so through Planned Parenthood — nearly twice the national rate. Planned Parenthood appears to be filling a gap in a state that ranks at or near the bottom in spending on public health in general, and also specifically on family planning services.”
Think this is just a problem in a little fly-over state? Think again. This is to your state sooner than you imagine. All thanks to grandstanding uber-conservative Republicans who would rather shut down the federal government than to provide funding to an organization that serves the needs of poor women, an organization whose primary mission is to provide counseling, testing services, contraceptives, family planning information, related women’s health information and referrals, and, yes, a very small percentage of their services is abortions. Abortion: a LEGAL medical procedure that the Supreme Court has consistently upheld as legal. Not that this stops the fetus worshipers!
Better to give tax-payer money to a group that preaches abstinence only and no abortion at all under any circumstance, no matter how medically necessary. After all, what was that charming anecdote told by a big Republican donor, Foster Friess, something about the only contraceptive a woman needs is an aspirin…. held between her knees.