Deceptive Agenda Driven Attacks

A new pro-abortion rights group that calls itself, “Equity Forward” is run by its lone employee, a former Planned Parenthood Vice President, who has been a pro-abortion activist for a long time. This New York entity has decided to intrude in Commonwealth of Pennsylvania contractual matters, and is going so far as seeking to pry into private, non-state business matters of Real Alternatives.

Undaunted by the fact that the Pennsylvania Office of Open Records decided on January 22, 2018 that Equity Forward is not entitled to Real Alternatives’ private business documents, they have filed an appeal with the Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania. More egregious is the fact that they have also published a highly defamatory, misleading, and false website about Real Alternatives and its very successful alternative to abortion program that it has administered for almost 22 years in Pennsylvania. The lies and libelous statements and accusations published by Equity Forward on their website are addressed by Real Alternatives below. Facts are an important reality, click the “Fiction” statement.

Fiction: Equity Forward commence their baseless attack with an allegation that Real Alternatives (RA) “has been an irresponsible steward of millions in taxpayer dollars since it was founded in 1997.”

Fact: It’s unclear why they saw the need to highlight our almost 22-year very successful and annually audited history of administering this program for the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. It’s something of which we are rightfully proud, especially in light of the fact that the program has existed and grown throughout both Democratic and Republican Administrations of varying ideologies. Nevertheless, concerning Equity Forward’s libelous statement that RA has been “an irresponsible steward,” the truth is actually just the opposite! RA has had 21 perfect CPA audits, as well as 5 audits by 5 different Commonwealth agencies covering multiple years of the program, which showed compliance with program requirements.

Fiction: Equity Forward then claims that RA “was the subject of a scathing report by Auditor General Eugene DePasquale in September 2017.”

Fact: It’s quite imperative to note that the Auditor General’s report was submitted only after the Commonwealth Court ruled in RA’s favor and against the Auditor General on his office’s claim for the very same records that Equity Forward now requests the same Commonwealth Court to order to be disclosed to them. Yes, “RA sued the state” as Equity Forward notes, simply because RA had no alternative but to file a Request for Declaratory Judgment in the Commonwealth Court involving all interested parties, including the Department of Human Services (DHS) and the Auditor General, so that an impartial Court could publicly decide the simple contract issue of whether or not RA’s private business records had to be disclosed to state agencies. RA won by a unanimous decision. RA’s prior multiple requests for meetings among the parties’ respective attorneys to iron out this very basic issue of contract law were rejected each and every time. RA’s request to submit this matter to mediation by another state agency also fell on deaf ears.

Fiction: Equity Forward next claims that the Service Provider organizations involved in the RA program “exist primarily to convince women not to undergo an abortion.”

Fact: Yes, our Program is charged with promoting childbirth rather than abortion. What they fail to point out to their readers is that over 284,000 women in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania have been provided Pregnancy and Parenting Support Services.

Fiction: Equity Forward claims that, “RA has been responsible for [a] large sum throughout serious controversy over its management of monies, billing, and proper use of PA taxpayer funds.”

Fact: Equity Forward is greatly misleading the reader with lies about a “serious controversy.” Aside from the multiple clean government audits and annual CPA audits referenced above, countless very important individuals in the Commonwealth of PA have heaped praise upon Real Alternatives over the years specifically because of its very good stewardship of state taxpayer dollars, not to mention the following former Secretaries of DPW (now DHS):

“My staff and I have had an excellent working relationship with Real Alternatives since my appointment as secretary by [Democrat] Governor Ed Rendell in January 2003.” “I was impressed . . . by its low administrative cost ratio.” “Auditing, including site visits, ending in 2004 by the Commonwealth’s Office of the Budget for contract years 2000-2003 resulted in finding that showed complete compliance with all contract requirements. Auditors had no recommendations.”

Letter of Recommendation to the Texas Department of Health and Human Services by Estelle B. Richman, Secretary for DPW – 2005

and

“This is an organization, and we know about all the good work you do for the mothers and children, but this is an organization that is fiscally responsible . . .This organization is an example of what our society needs!”

Remarks of Gary P. Alexander, Acting Secretary for PA DPW – 2011 Service Providers Luncheon

and

“We fund Real Alternatives because it’s the right thing to do.”

Remarks of Beverly Mackereth, Secretary of PA DPW – 2014 Service Providers Luncheon

Fiction: The newly created Equity Forward falsely states that “Pennsylvania dollars” were used “to expand to Indiana and Michigan.”

Fact: Again, the truth is just the opposite.  By consciously always being good stewards of state taxpayer dollars, Real Alternatives always ensures that each state’s funding is used only for client services and expenses within that state.  Equity Forward refuses to understand the basic concept of the Program’s Service Providers choosing to use a very small portion of their earned reimbursements to fund the common mission of expanding such services for women wherever possible. Either they don’t understand, or they don’t like the fact that the independent, private Service Provider organizations desire to help other women with their own money. Either way, it truly is none of Equity Forward’s business!

Fiction: It’s ironic that Equity Forward admits that it is “using . . . Pennsylvania’s Right to Know Law”!

Fact: Equity Forward is a self-proclaimed “watchdog group.” They have not been hired, or retained by anyone for such a role. This new New York company of one is using the “watchdog” designation simply to “use” the Pennsylvania Right to Know Law to advance their real business agenda and goal of refusing woman the option of receiving free, caring and compassionate assistance so that they can be the mother and parent they truly want to be, and to avoid the abortion they are being forced by others to have. They want to tell Real Alternatives how to run its private business endeavors, the Service Providers how to spend their money, and women everywhere how they should handle their pregnancies!

With further regard to Pennsylvania’s Right to Know Law, it’s very important to continually remind the reader that the Pennsylvania Office of Open Records has already analyzed the issue in depth and has concluded in no uncertain terms that Equity Forward is not entitled to Real Alternatives’ private business records!

Fiction: Equity Forward then makes the silly claim that Real Alternative “refuses to be transparent.”

Fact: The countless audits of Real Alternatives referenced above will not be repeated again. All of them are open to the public. The basic concept that reasonable people understand is that all government programs are open to inspection by state auditors, while non-government programs are not. Could you imagine if any and all self-proclaimed “watchdogs” decided they wanted to investigate any company’s private business dealings? That’s not the way business is conducted in the United States of America!

Fiction: The next section Equity Forward has titled, “The Facts.” A more accurate title is suggested below.

Fact: “The Agenda-Driven Fiction!” For example, Equity Forward mentions the 2015 audit, but conveniently fails to note that the audit revealed “general compliance with program requirements” by Real Alternatives. It is also 100% completely false that Real Alternatives “kept 3% of all service provider reimbursements drawn from Commonwealth funds.” Once again, it’s just the opposite. Real Alternatives reimbursed its vendor Service Providers 100% of what they earned.

Fiction: Not having actual facts to rely upon, Equity Forward chose instead to recite the PA Auditor General’s equally groundless comments of alleged “skimming a 3% fee,” “siphoning funds,” and “an egregious violation.”

Fact: The conveniently omitted facts are that the independent Service Provider vendor organizations hire Real Alternatives to expand its life affirming work nationwide by contributing to the cost thereof through a Program Development and Advancement Agreement. It is a completely separate and private contract to which the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania is not a party! The Commonwealth’s authority to audit contracts clearly does not extend to contracts between private parties. Accordingly, if the Commonwealth isn’t entitled to such records as has already been clearly shown, then certainly a self-proclaimed “watchdog” group from New York isn’t entitled to snoop around into the private contractual dealings between private companies!

Fiction: Equity Forward states, “Pennsylvania taxpayers have the right to review publicly funded operational records.”

Fact: What it fails to state is that it is seeking private, non-publicly funded records to which the Commonwealth is not a party.

Fiction: Another aspect of the agenda-driven fiction of Equity Forward is their baseless claim that Real Alternatives’ “financial records are a basic public record.”

Fact: This evidences a complete lack of understanding of fundamental business concepts. Moreover, the Pennsylvania Office of Open Records has already determined that they are not public records.

The false narrative is enlarged by Equity Forward’s libelous and defamatory claim of “Real Alternatives’ decades-long practice of hiding their use of public funds, which could top millions of dollars.” What makes it even more egregious is that the statement was made by none other than the attorney who is representing them in this harassing fishing expedition for records to which they clearly are not entitled.

Fiction: Equity Forward titles its next section, “Real Alternatives & Anti-Abortion Counseling Centers.”

Fact: Finally they got something right! The Grant Agreements that the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania has had with Real Alternatives since 1997 specifically require that the services provided in the program “encourage a decision of childbirth over abortion.” Therefore, to be able to comply with the terms of the Grant Agreement, the Service Provider organizations must be “life-affirming” in their counseling!

Fiction: The next misrepresentation by Equity Forward is that Real Alternatives’ “sole purpose is to dole out monies.”

Fact: In actuality, Real Alternatives has had grant agreements with states for almost 22 years to administer life-affirming state-wide programs that provide support to women in unexpected pregnancies so they don’t feel that our society has given them no choice other than being forced to choose abortion. Equity Forward’s comment insults the countless female counselors who work untiringly to assist other women who need some help during a very difficult time in their lives. Apparently Equity Forward’s only solution to help such a woman is to tell her to abort her developing baby. That’s not what Democratic Governor Robert Casey believed was the best way to help women in Pennsylvania when he started this program over 23 years ago.

Fiction: Equity Forward repeats its laughable comment that there is “insufficient oversight” or “little transparency” with regard to Real Alternatives’ grant Agreements with the Commonwealth.

Fact: Aside from the fact that the grant agreements are readily available to the public, and despite the countless government audits and annual audits with which Real Alternatives always fully complies, Real Alternatives also regularly submits Quarterly Reports and Final Reports to DHS. There exists an ongoing mutual working relationship between Real Alternatives and DHS to ensure that the grant goals are being met and administered appropriately. Former DHS Secretary Gary Alexander once commented that he “wished all Pennsylvania programs were run as well as the Real Alternatives program.” Multiple program managers of DHS have made similar comments throughout the years of this successful program.  Equity Forward is simply barking up the wrong tree in their overzealousness.

Fiction: Yet another aspect of Equity Forward’s false narrative is found in their website contention that the Program Service Provider organizations “exist for the primary purpose of convincing women not to undergo an abortion.”

Fact: As stated above, the Program Service Providers’ counselors proudly provide caring, compassionate and loving pregnancy and parenting support services to women who go to them for help! No woman is ever forced to go to a first visit or to any follow-up visits. They do so on their own accord. Doesn’t Equity Forward respect such women enough to recognize that they are able to decide for themselves whether they want to go to a program Service Provider for assistance in the first place, and whether they want to continue to go for services thereafter? Again, Equity Forward claims to know better than Pennsylvania women what is best for their well-being. Real Alternatives counselors merely allow the women to decide for themselves.

Fiction: Equity Forward can claim all it wants that Real Alternatives’ private business records “are well within the scope of Pennsylvania’s Right to Know law,”

Fact: However, the Pennsylvania Office of Open Records quite understandably already held that Equity Forward’s claims have no basis in fact or in law.

In conclusion, it is patently clear that, under the guise of “championing transparency” by a self-proclaimed “watchdog,” it is in actuality nothing more than a thinly-veiled, agenda-driven, deceptive suit founded upon defamatory, misleading, and false accusations by an out-of-state, newly-formed pro-abortion group whose primary business and goal is to attempt to stop the growth of national publically funded alternatives to abortion services for women. They are misusing and weaponizing the Pennsylvania Right to Know Law and are seeking to manipulate the reader to buy into their lies to deny life-affirming choices for women in Pennsylvania and beyond. Don’t be fooled or misled by their agenda-driven misinformation campaign.

Fiction: Equity Forward creates a false narrative, and then decides it has to include a section titled, “Equity Forward’s Response.”

Fact: Thankfully, most readers will clearly see through such tactics. Nevertheless, it has the gall to identify itself as being “nonpartisan.” It would be very interesting to know who and/or what organization funds Equity Forward’s attack mission? This is obviously an organized, well-funded, fully partisan effort to steal away life affirming assistance to women in Pennsylvania and elsewhere. Do they abhor a woman’s choice to be a mother that much?

Fiction: They then have the nerve to try to convince the reader that it is Real Alternatives who is “limiting access to reproductive health care.”

Fact: Terminating the life of a developing human being is not “health care”. It is Equity Forward who is guilty of “limiting access” to human reproduction! Abortion does in fact not only limit, but completely ENDS reproduction! Moreover, when it comes to actual healthcare, with the encouragement of their counselors and assistance with scheduling appointments, at least 95% of Real Alternatives’ clients faithfully attend their pre-natal visits and regularly take their newborn children for neonatal appointments.

Fiction: The non-involved party, Equity Forward, claims that Real Alternatives is involved in a “contentious debate.”

Fact:  Like Equity Forward itself, the “issue” in question was also created completely out of whole cloth concerning a completely private matter! There truly is no real, substantive issue to debate, let alone it being “contentious”!

Fiction: Equity Forward repeats its claim that “the records in question deal with RA’s practice of recouping 3%” through an alleged “bill back” process.

Fact: Real Alternatives cannot force Equity Forward to understand the very basic Contract Law concept of a separate second contract, agreed to by private contracting parties, to which the Commonwealth is not a party. It also refuses to accept the fact that it is the Service Providers, and not Equity Forward or anyone else for that matter, who gets to decide how they choose to spend their EARNED money from services they provided.