Pence awards $3.5M contract to anti-abortion charity group

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.

Pence cited the successes of a $1 million pilot program as reason for granting a new $3.5 million contract to Real Alternatives, a Pennsylvania-based charity that provides "life-affirming" counseling on everything from breastfeeding to finding maternal homes, adoption agencies and social services, according to its website.

"Today's announcement marks an important step for the health of Hoosier women and families in Indiana, and this additional funding will ensure important organizations across our state can continue supporting those in need," Pence said of the group, which operates in Indiana, Michigan and Pennsylvania.

Though Pence praised Real Alternatives for the services they offer to expectant mothers, he has been an outspoken opponent of women's reproductive health care providers that perform abortions, including Planned Parenthood.

Over the summer, Pence called for an investigation into the Indiana's Planned Parenthood facilities after an anti-abortion group circulated a video it made secretly showing its officials discussing how they obtain organs from aborted fetuses for research. He has also called for Congress to defund the organization, which is a major provider of reproductive health care for women.

The new funding will allow Real Alternatives to expand statewide from its current network in northern Indiana, which includes one social service provider, as well as 14 pregnancy support centers, according to the group's website. Indiana Department of Health spokeswoman Jeni O'Malley could not provide a copy of the new contract on Monday.

Service providers who work with Real Alternatives are barred from having affiliation with entities that perform abortions or are advocates for the pro-abortion rights cause. They are also banned from using "abortion alternative" funding from Real Alternatives to promote the use of contraceptives.

Social conservatives, including the group Indiana Right To Life, praised Pence for awarding the contract. But in a statement the Indiana Democratic Party accused Pence of putting ideology before the health of Indiana women.

"Not only are there transparency issues associated with this deal, but the organization uses questionable and partisan research in their assessment of health behaviors," Indiana Democratic Party spokesman Drew Anderson said in a written statement. "The Administration owes taxpayers answers on how their money is being spent."

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