You Can’t Make This Stuff Up…

If Democrats were creating a caricature of a Republican extremist–a one-dimensional straw man to run against– it would look a lot like Mike Pence. Unfortunately, Indiana’s zealot Governor isn’t a fabrication by the opposition.

As the IBJ reported yesterday,

Gov. Mike Pence announced Monday that he will expand Indiana’s affiliation with a not-for-profit organization that counsels pregnant women against abortion and pushes abstinence as the only method of birth control.

Indiana Right to Life was reportedly gratified. A Google search confirmed the reason why–not only does “Real Alternatives” (the nonprofit in question) confine its “services” to “counseling” against abortion, it also provides “clients” with the horrifying “facts” about birth control. I found a handy little pamphlet explaining why Contraception Is Not the Answer, filled with misinformation and fear-producing “facts.” (Did you know that injectable contraceptives “drastically increase your risk of invasive breast cancer”? No, and neither do medical experts.)

A blogger in Michigan–where their anti-choice Governor has also contracted with Real Alternatives– detailed the organization’s dubious tactics, many of which were documented in an investigation conducted by a Philadelphia newspaper. The reporter visited a Real Alternative clinic, claiming to be pregnant; she was told that abortion would leave permanent psychological damage, that it often leads to depression, and could interfere with her ever having children– claims thoroughly debunked by reputable medical science.

Groups like Real Alternatives exist throughout the country, mostly funded by anti-abortion organizations like Heartbeat International and individual donations. Real Alternatives, though, is funded almost entirely by the state of Pennsylvania — financed, that is, by you, the taxpayer, and it has received tens of millions of dollars since 1997…

That money, City Paper has found, goes to pay for part of the $199,000 salary (including benefits) of the CEO of Real Alternatives, who has no medical experience. It also funds an army of hundreds of “counselors,” non-medically-qualified personnel whose job it is to dispense the organization’s (sometimes outright inaccurate) information — and who, despite lacking the credentials of nurse practitioners or psychologists, cost the state much more per hour for their services than either.

According to Cosmopolitan magazine, which conducted a year-long investigation of the organization’s operations in Pennsylvania,

Real Alternatives’ contract with the state relies on debunked studies that imply abortion leads to breast cancer and clinical depression. Centers are not allowed to advocate for birth control, much less dispense it. The contract’s directives advise pregnancy-center staff to make an “assessment of the client’s spiritual needs” by asking questions like, “How does your faith impact the choices you make?” (One quarterly report from a center to Real Alternatives refers to clients with the aliases “Mary” and “Joseph.”)

The United Nations Population Fund estimates that one in three deaths related to pregnancy and childbirth could be avoided if all women had access to contraceptive services.

Whatever one’s position on abortion, the use of tax dollars to support “clinics” that offer no medical services— clinics that exist solely to lie to women in order to convince them to forego both abortion and contraception–is immoral.

Our fundamentalist Governor is understandably frantic to mend fences with his Religious Right constituency, after reality and Hoosier businesses forced him to sign the RFRA “fix.” In the echo chamber he inhabits, this contract probably seemed like a good way to do that.

In the rest of the state–even among Republicans– not so much.

John Gregg is looking better all the time.


  1. How is the government funding the operation of this organization not the “establishment of religion”?

  2. Is our “fundamentalist” governor going to try to discourage birth control techniques such as withdrawal and masturbation no longer subjects of Sunday sermons? Men, beware the slippery slope greased by hypocrites!

  3. Thank you, Theresa! They attempted to present this action as a positive “care provider” for women. This is a political campaign tactic by Pence to further ensnare those staunch Republican voters for next year’s gubernatorial election. It downplayed the religious aspect in careful wording when describing services provided to women. Not-for profit? That CEO salary of $199,000 (plus benefits) sounds highly profitable to me. What is the salary range of the CEO in Indiana? This is a good example of Pence’s RFRA and “fix” support of religious beliefs and affiliations when medical care, not religious support, is needed for women.

    An even bolder campaign tactic is Pence’s sudden handout of $1 BILLION from “his” Indiana budget surplus for infrastructure repair after months of pleading and begging by the public – and the Democrats – to turn loose of our money which he tagged as “surplus”. This is also an added distraction from the mayoral election only days away – let’s take care of “first-things-first” and get Joe Hogsett in the Mayor’s Office before we concentrate our full efforts on ridding the state of Pence and his religious fervor and obsession with the sexual activities of Indiana residents and blocking women from much needed health care no matter their income status.

  4. I’m amazed that anyone would vote for Mike Pence–especially any female voter. I think he is just not very bright, and stupid is always dangerous.

  5. Thank you for highlighting this truly disgusting waste of taxpayer money by the Pence administration. An action that is not only wasteful, as it furthers no positive health outcomes, but actually harms women’s health by providing no options for women and distributes misinformation. This is shameful and you are correct- immoral.

  6. I am not surprised by his endorsement of this group, no one will ever accuse this man of being an intellectual! He takes his cues from a wing of the party that looks down on critical thinking and science in general.

  7. I read about this last Saturday and was hoping you would blog about it.

    I actually did not know that the governor had the power to give money to anyone without the approval of the legislature. How does an organization like this legally stay open when it is ABUSING pregnant women?

    Finally, what can we do to stop this before it even gets started? It seems to me that it should be illegal for anyone that is not a medical professional to be giving medical advice. I do not consider licensed social workers to be “medical professionals”.

  8. Sheila, your statement:

    “In the rest of the state–even among Republicans– not so much.”

    has me wondering – what are the Republicans saying about this?

  9. Mr. Pence is guilty of pandering to special interests by leveraging the State’s assets and business to gain support for his reelection. RFRA was signed clandestinely with the encouragement of those who want to ignore the fact that the protections of all laws must be available to everyone; acquiring the services of the politically active NRA to train National Guard personnel in the use of handguns, and this latest contract both cater to groups with special interests. Imagine the uproar if $3.5 million had been given to an out of state organization promoting abortion!

  10. Are there any LEGAL grounds do disrupt this nonsense? Seems like using taxpayer money to LIE to the public should be illegal, but maybe not in IN.

  11. @ Chris – thanks for the link. Here is a copy of the last two paragraphs. I especially noted that the CPCs don’t care what happens to the women once they are past the point of obtaining an abortion. THIS is SO disgusting!!! Shame on anyone that supports this BS!!!

    “Everitt says that instead, many patients can face serious health risks if they believe CPC are health care providers. Once women are past the point of being able to have an abortion, the CPC isn’t as interested in helping them. Everitt recalled the story of a doctor she interviewed while researching for the bill who had seen a pregnant patient straight from CPC care. The patient was diabetic, which risked the health of both herself and her baby — a life-threatening factor that the clinic had missed.

    “They may claim this is a free speech issue, but it’s really a public health issue,” Everitt said. “When women are looking for trustworthy health care, they should get it. Right now, they’re not.”

  12. I agree that Gregg looks better than Pence, but so does a tree stump. Gregg wasn’t exactly a nation of deep thinking and acceptance last time. I hope we aren’t buying another Donnelly. Why can’t someone with some gravitas and spine run?

  13. We need to harass and frustrate abortion. Abortion kills more people than guns, but the Democrats never propose meaningful, reasonable or common sense abortion control.

    If Pence’s efforts save just one life, it’s worth it.

    What’s with the weird references to religion? We’re talking about abortion, not religion.

  14. @ Goober – you had better be putting money where your mouth is by financially supporting these women and their children once they are born. Otherwise, keep your ignorant opinion to yourself!

  15. This continues to baffle me…I recently had a gynecological health scare and was sent to an oncologist. There are alot of these health issues that helped if a woman has a history of taking birth control pills. Birth control is used for dysmenorrhea, help regulate, etc….

    My dad is Catholic and I know they have a problem with forms of birth control. He told me it was because it is preventing a potential life. I asked “…but they prefer the pull out method?!” Isnt that almost a form of masterbation…those are wasted little sperms and so aren’t you going to hell for the wasted sperm from the pull out methods? There is no end of the road for the ignorant train. sigh

  16. Speaking of ‘putting your money’ and ‘financially supporting’, I cruised the web with the idea of locating major league campaign donors in Indiana; however, I ran across this NY Times article from 10/10/2015 that is interesting.

    The top early mega donors in the 2016 Presidential elections have fortunes that reflect the shifting composition of the country’s economic elite. Relatively few work in the traditional ranks of corporate America, or hail from dynasties of inherited wealth. Most built their own businesses, parlaying talent and an appetite for risk into huge wealth: They founded hedge funds in New York, bought up undervalued oil leases in Texas, made blockbusters in Hollywood. More than a few of the elite donors were born outside the United States, immigrating from countries like Cuba, the old Soviet Union, Pakistan, India and Israel.

    Link to the NY Times article where a listing of these mega-donors is shown.

  17. Researching this I find no data on their work – yet pence cites their success as a reason to triple the grant. They have been investigated before and currently are. Nancy where did you read about this last week? Story broke here Monday. This needs to be audited and investigated – to your last point about Gregg- no way is he looking better. I’ve yet to see ANY legislator speak out on this. Agree Gregg has no spine and goes with the cameras. Never will vote for him .BTW this is an example how RFRA affects more than GLBT. Our tax dollars funding a group which states up front they won’t refer clients should client choose to terminate pregnancy.

  18. Gopper advances the perfect Pence defense: it’s about abortion not religion. Sure it is. Oh thank you wise and caring governor! I’m sure there’s a special in heaven just for you.

  19. If I were an investigative reporter, I’d be searching for big-money campaign donations to Pence, big-money from beyond the Indiana borders. The NY Times article I posted earlier has a starting point for those who enjoy research, the Wilks family who currently ranks as the #1 campaign donor in the 2016 Presidential election.

    Interestingly, the Wilks family has/is pouring money into KY’s Court Clerk Kim Wright’s stance. If the Wilks family supports Kim Wright via extreme conservative groups, then who’s to say they’re not also funneling dollars into Pence’s campaign.

    From Reuters on 9/11/2015, a look at the Wilks family, a look at a family who appears to hold the same, if not very similar, beliefs as Pence.

  20. Had coffee with a friend this AM. Politics and religion is usually taboo with people I like but he brought up the matter of Pence being an idiot. He offered that maybe he should just stay in China where he can do us no harm.

    Things that make you go Hmmmm.

  21. Marie, if you want to find data on their work, look no further than Mike Pence. They worked on him and had 100% success.

    By the way, if 99% of Protestants use birth control, and 98% of Catholics use it (as we know that is the case), just where is the constituency on that issue? A few bishops and a couple of Protestants who have lost their way?

  22. John Gregg only looks better because Pence is SOOOOOO utterly horrible and Gregg’s not a total zealot. But let’s please not forget that he isn’t particularly progressive when it comes to reproductive choice either. Keep the pressure on Gregg to do better. Don’t let him skate by just because he’s NOT!PENCE!

  23. GROPPER–Don’t like abortion? Don’t have one. You know the feeling most women have leaving after their abortions? Relief. Look at the work of UNICEF. They have to deal with the results of child brides, incest, fand rape as a tool of war waged on tiny little girls who have to have reconstructive surgery, so I have NO tolerance for anyone who tells me a fetus is more important that the woman (or child, really) who happens to be growing it. There are so may abusive men/societies/religions who wage war on women that I won’t even waste my time defending the ‘morality’ of something that is just a way to keep the current power structure on top. When governments stop abusing women and children we will reopen the discussion. But from where I sit, it is still true that the only thing men have ever ‘protected’ women against is other men.

  24. Being a day late but not necessarily a dollar short, I’ll say that Mike Pence has the charisma of a wet noodle and that John Gregg would be better served by ridding himself of the barbershop quartet look mustache. Visuals ARE more important.

  25. I do not want to change the subject. However, Democrats talk out of both sides of their mouths when it comes to reproductive rights. While claiming to support them, they are also rabidly in favor of citizenship for illegal aliens when the overwhelming majority are from countries that believe profoundly in male superiority and are virtually controlled by the Catholic Church which forbids birth control. In other words, they are willing to sell women out for those 12,000,000 or more votes. The Catholic Church wants more Catholics and hence more money and power. Further, women who are constantly bearing and rearing children cannot challenge either the male-dominated Catholic Church or the equally male-dominated Republican Party.

    I grew up in Chicago and used to think that “we” Midwesterners were pretty normal. Wrong!!! The women in the South and Midwest who vote for these woman-haters, including Ted Cruz and John Kasich, must either be controlled by their husbands or churches or just hate other women like Phyllis Schafly and Carly Fiorina.

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