ACCESS TO FULL RANGE OF HEALTH CARE OPTIONS,
INCLUDING REPRODUCTIVE CHOICE
The core belief of our advocacy is the entitlement of women to make choices about their own lives free from violence, abuse, and coercion. This core value extends not only to individual acts that infringe on women’s autonomy but also to institutional oppression that impedes women’s self-determination. Laws that aim to restrict access to women’s full range of health care options—reproductive health care including abortion, in particular—are antithetical to women’s autonomy, and as such PCADV opposes them.
Pennsylvania has some of the most restrictive abortion laws in the nation. The 1989 Pennsylvania Abortion Control Act(upheld by the Supreme Court in Planned Parenthood v. Casey) was one of the first comprehensive sets of abortion restrictions in the country, and began a nearly twenty-year trend of slowly chipping away at a woman’s right to choose through what seem like small restrictions, but add up to a significant burden on women seeking abortion. Pennsylvania’s Abortion Control Act includes the following restrictions:
- A 24-hour waiting period between a positive pregnancy test and an abortion procedure.
- A mandated lecture with materials produced by the state. This lecture includes outdated and exaggerated information, and was included in the law as an attempt to convince women not to go forward with the procedure. There is no other medical procedure in existence that includes similar protocol.
- For a woman under the age of 18, before the 24-hour waiting period goes into effect, a parent must come in to witness the mandated lecture. The same parent must come in on the day of the procedure to sign a consent form. The only way to forego this section of the law is by court order, an often intimidating and convoluted system to navigate as a young woman.
- No state or federal public funds can subsidize abortion counseling, referrals or procedures.
In recent years the Pennsylvania legislature has taken up a slew of bills intended to restrict both the individual fundamental right to reproductive choice, and the provision of abortion and contraception services by providers. In the 2011-2012 legislative session alone, the following bills have been introduced:
- SB 732 requires abortion providers to comply with overwhelming regulatory standards that will have the effect of closing down many, if not most, clinics that provide abortion, or cause them to stop offering abortion services. Specifically, it forces free-standing abortion providers to be regulated as Ambulatory Surgical Facilities (ASF) which require burdensome and unnecessary structural and staffing changes. SB 732 passed the state legislature and was signed into law by the Governor on December 22, 2011. The new law goes into effect in June 2012.
- SB 3 (pending) would ban insurance companies participating in the yet-to-be-established state health insurance exchange from offering abortion coverage. Currently, an estimated 80 percent of insurance plans provide abortion coverage. If SB 3 passes, women will lose this existing overage and be forced to seek abortion from less reputable or unsafe providers.
- HB 1077 (pending, the so-called “Women's Right-to-Know Act”), mandates ultrasound tests be conducted at least 24 hours prior to any abortion and the results shown to the patient in an effort to discourage women from having abortions. Currently ultrasounds are conducted for all abortion procedures, although no patient is forced to view the images if they don’t choose to.
- HB 2405 (pending, the so-called “Whole Woman’s Health Funding Priority Act”), disallows the Department of Health from entering into a contract or granting public funds to a facility providing non-federally qualified abortions or maintains or operates a facility where non-federally qualified abortions are performed. The aim of this bill is to prohibit the use of any state funding from going to any Planned Parenthood facility that also offers abortion regardless of the funding source.
PCADV recognizes its role as one of the largest statewide advocacy networks on behalf of women’s livesand our history as an organization with a strong, unequivocal pro-choice position. This legislative session, PCADV began participating more vocally in the opposition to proposed legislation that would curb access
to reproductive choice. We submitted letters and conducted lobby visits in partnership with Planned Parenthood to urge legislators to reject HB 1077—which was and remains tabled as of this writing.
2012 ACTION STEPS ON REPRODUCTIVE AND OTHER WOMEN’S HEALTH CARE ISSUES
- PCADV will actively engage in direct and grassroots lobbying in support of women’s full range of health care options, including abortion, and will oppose legislative measures that seek to impede or restrict access to women’s autonomous decision-making.
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Abigail Hurst, LSW
Contact for information about PCADV’s Public Policy work