Protesters target Michigan operation of Pennsylvania anti-abortion group

Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island | iStock photo/Michigan Advance

By Derek Robertson

A Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit is blanketing this week’s Mackinac Policy Conference with accusations that a family planning group opposed to abortion is misusing state taxpayer dollars.

The nonprofit Equity Forward is accusing that group, Harrisburg-based Real Alternatives, of waste and misattribution of funds in its partnership with Michigan, which began in 2013 to provide pregnancy and parenting support to the state’s residents.

Earlier this year, the nonprofit Campaign for Accountability filed a complaint with the state claiming that Real Alternatives misused taxpayer funds and did not adequately provide the services it claimed, as the Advance first reported. That lawsuit followed a similar one filed last year by Equity Forward in Pennsylvania, where Real Alternatives is based.

Equity Forward released a statement Tuesday saying it intends to present “the facts about Real Alternatives to lawmakers and Lansing-insiders attending the 2019 Mackinac Policy Conference.” It also purchased a billboard on northbound I-75 meant to be visible to Mackinac attendees, as well as what their statement refers to as a “sky banner” that will fly over the Grand Hotel.

In response to Equity Forward’s claims about misuse of Pennsylvania taxpayer dollars, Real Alternatives’ website claims that “Real Alternatives always ensures that each state’s funding is used only for client services and expenses within that state.”

Earlier this month, a Pennsylvania appellate court court ruled that Real Alternatives, which has received tens of millions of dollars in taxpayer money to run Pennsylvania’s crisis pregnancy program, did not provide grounds to justify why some of that money should be shielded from public view.

The decision by the Commonwealth Court also requires the state Office of Open Records to reconsider its decision rejecting Equity Forward’s request to review Real Alternative’s financial records.

Disclosure: Equity Forward is a project of the Hopewell Fund, a Washington D.C.-based progressive 501(c)(3), as is the North Carolina-based The Newsroom, which supports the Michigan Advance. There is no coordination or relationship of any kind between the Advance and Equity Forward.

This piece has been updated to reflect that the Campaign for Accountability has received funding from, but is not a project of the Hopewell Fund.

This piece originally appeared in The Michigan Advance, a sister publication to the Capital-Star.

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