Marybeth Hagan

is a writer in Merion Station

The balloons have fallen and Democratic National Conventioneers went their merry ways. Yet one recurring theme of that Philadelphia political event left me uneasy. Democrats seem dead set on being the party that celebrates abortion and bills taxpayers for it.

While some convention speakers spoke of abortion as "reproductive health care," others openly crowed the word. Ilyse Hogue, NARAL Pro-Choice America's president, took that verbalization one step further and talked about her abortion years ago. "I wanted a family, but it was the wrong time," Hogue said. "I made the decision that was best for me."

Democratic conventioneers cheered. Whoopee!

Planned Parenthood president Cecile Richards said Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton "will always stand up for Roe v. Wade and the right of every woman to access a full range of reproductive health care, including abortion, no matter her economic status."

Later that night at Planned Parenthood's invitation-only "Sex, Politics and Cocktails" bash, Richards took that verbalization one step further and declared, "We have to repeal the Hyde Amendment!" Clinton has made the same declaration on the campaign trail.

The Hyde Amendment prohibits the use of taxpayer dollars for abortions. As if legalized abortion wasn't enough - more than 58 million and counting since the U.S. Supreme Court Roe ruling in 1973. Now advocates like Richards and Clinton want taxpayers to pay for abortions.

Should a President Hillary Clinton and congressional supporters get their hands on the Hyde Amendment, Richards' organization would have much to gain. Planned Parenthood is the nation's largest single provider of abortions. It performed 323,999 abortions in 2014 and 327,653 in 2013, according to its own annual reports. With government funds, it could do more.

Many of us would rather see our tax dollars invested in a state-funded, nonprofit program like Real Alternatives (www.realalternatives.org). It was founded in Pennsylvania 20 years ago, and about 70 percent of last year's budget came from the commonwealth.

Real Alternatives was created so that pregnant women and girls in tough circumstances need not feel that abortion is their only option. Sixty-six percent of those who enter this program opt for birth of their babies. The group offers free services to those who choose childbirth via its Pennsylvania statewide network of 94 pregnancy support centers, maternity homes, and social service agencies and adoption agencies. Since 1996, Real Alternatives counselors have assisted 264,077 women and girls.

The organization first helps those who are pregnant determine whether to choose adoption or parenting for their newborns. Other assistance includes self-administered pregnancy kits, baby food, maternity and baby clothes, and baby furniture. The group also provides education regarding infant care, adoption, parenting, and the practice of abstinence to avoid pregnancy, as well as referrals for other services to meet the needs of the mothers and their babies.

Women and teens who have given birth receive further support, including mentoring; parenting counseling and classes; education referrals for upgrading skills or obtaining a GED; child-care assistance; information on Women Infants and Children (WIC) programs; job and vocational training opportunities; and essential infant and baby supplies.

Real Alternatives has been so effective in carefully spending Pennsylvania taxpayer dollars that Michigan and Indiana adopted the program in 2014. The group also helped set up the Texas Pregnancy Care Network, which manages that state's abortion-alternatives program.

Mothers remain under Real Alternatives' care during the nine months of their pregnancies and for 12 months after giving birth. They stay in close contact with their individual counselors throughout. "Our counselors establish a personal relationship with their clients who dearly need someone to trust," said Kevin Bagatta, Real Alternatives' president. "Many of them have no one [to turn to for support]. These girls are loved by their counselors."

Love reproduces love, and there's no love quite like that between a mother and her child. With Real Alternatives' help, the mom who chooses to be a parent finds that love. And generous moms who choose adoption for their baby bestow that love on other mothers and fathers who long for it. In both scenarios, birth mothers find better ways to live their lives.

So enough talk about funding the dead end of abortion. Let's talk about equal rights to maternal love. Let's back up that rhetoric with taxpayer support for programs like Real Alternatives that, in the words of our Constitution, "secure the Blessings of Liberty" not only "to ourselves," but also to "our Posterity."

mbthagan@gmail.com