The idea of the deep state is a metaphor to alert the citizenry to policies that are made mostly in secret, or if not in secret at least with very limited public visibility, in the states as well as in the federal government. Often public policy decisions, made by powerful political elites in relative secrecy or by invisible groups, are only announced or uncovered after they are made. Policies secretly implemented become difficult to challenge because decisions have already been made and appear irreversible.
The Mysterious “Real Alternatives” Contract With the State of Indiana
For example, on October 15, 2015, Governor Mike Pence of Indiana announced that Indiana had signed a $3.5 million contract for one year of anti-abortion counseling with Real Alternatives, a multi-million dollar non-profit organization. The contract would be funded by Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) money. He reported that Real Services has a “pro-life mission.” It does not provide advice concerning contraception and most women’s reproductive health services. Its goal is to “actively promote childbirth instead of abortion.”
The Governor indicated that this contract follows a prior one year $1 million pilot program carried out in Northern Indiana. He claimed that the contract provides important health services for women and families. The stated purpose of RA is to “actively promote childbirth instead of abortion.” The CEO of Indiana Right to Life praised the pilot program and the new contract.
What Is “Real Alternatives” and Where Did It Come From?
It turns out that Real Alternatives is among a growing industry of Crisis Pregnancy Centers (CPC) that have sprung up around the country to oppose abortions, contraception, and family planning. Jenny Kutner (“How Crisis Pregnancy Centers Are Using Taxpayer Dollars to Lie to Women,” Salon, July 14, 2015) points out that there are three times more CPCs than abortion clinics. They do provide some modest services, such as pregnancy tests, some basic childcare resources, and diapers for new born children of poor women. However, CPC services are typically “…misleading, manipulative or downright coercive, pushing a distinctly antiabortion agenda that relies heavily on lying to clients.” CPC counsellors are usually religious and misrepresent themselves as healthcare professionals.
At least 11 states provide millions of dollars to fund largely religiously-based CPCs. One of the largest CPC organizations, Real Alternatives, began operations in Pennsylvania in the 1990s. Former Democratic Governor Robert P. Casey put RA services in the state budget to actively oppose abortions. Over the years the state’s support for RA came from the legislature’s “pro-life” caucus and was followed by public money being used by the Pennsylvania Department of Public Welfare to fund Morning Star Pregnancy Services and the Pennsylvania Alternative to Abortion Services Program. By 1997 72 CPCs received public reimbursements.
Support for RA spread to other states but Pennsylvania’s former Senator Rick Santorum failed in his effort to introduce the Women and Children’s Resources Act to fund CPC programs like RA in 1999, which would have been a federally-funded program. RA gave support to parallel CPCs in Florida, Wisconsin, and North Dakota. In 2001 Pennsylvania support for RA increased and the program was funded by money from the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program. By 2011, the RA model was used to establish anti-choice services in Texas, Michigan, Ohio, Nebraska, Louisiana, South Dakota, and in 2014 Indiana. Pence said that “We fund Real Alternatives because it’s the right thing to do! We know that the work that you all do is critical to making Pennsylvania a better place. We know that what you do every day is making a tremendous difference in the lives of our children and families.”
The Deep States and the Anti-Choice Agenda
While so-called right-to-life groups are aware of CPCs and particularly the work of RA, most of the public had little knowledge of the pilot Indiana program. In addition, aside from a brief report on Indianapolis television, the Pence extension of the RA program with public money received little attention. The small but determined opponents of the right of women to control their bodies, including particularly religious organizations, create semi-public organizations such as RA and then set about building support among the political class to gain state funding for their efforts. By the time the public is aware of the state funding, it is too late to mobilize adequate political opposition.
In the case of RA, and most CPCs, state funding is in violation of the separation of church and state and the Supreme Court decision in Roe v. Wade. Progressives need to become familiar with the “deep state,” those semi-invisible centers of power that shape the public policy agenda and at the same time work against policies that challenge the fundamental rights of all citizens. And voters reflecting on if and how they cast their vote should be aware of the semi-secret anti-women policies implemented by the vice-presidential candidate on the Republican ticket, Mike Pence.