Earlier this month, Pennsylvania House members – mostly Republican – voted for burdensome, expensive new regulations for abortion providers, citing their concern for women’s health and safety as their only motive.
Last week, they approved the House Republican version of the FY 2012 state budget in House Bill 1485. It looks like the rhetoric of protecting women’s safety that figured so prominently in the House floor debate on abortion was all but forgotten when it came time to actually fund programs that save women’s lives.
In approving this budget, the House cut funding for domestic violence programs in the Commonwealth by 10% – amounting to a decrease of over $1 million. This cut will take funding for domestic violence programs back to the level it was at in 1998.
Just between 2008 and 2009, domestic violence related homicides increased by 48% [PDF]. This increase shows how important it is that the 92,000 battered women and children who seek help in Pennsylvania continue to access programs that help them escape violence in their own homes.
It is easy to see the effect a 10% cut in funds will have when, in the hundred-day budget delay last year, two shelters had to shut down. The effects of a 10% cut will be widespread and devastating if we do not do something about it.
The budget has passed in the House, but still needs to pass the Senate. Now is the time to call your senator and tell them that cutting programs desperately needed by women and children in Pennsylvania is not the moral way to balance the budget.
On Monday, the Pennsylvania House of Representatives State Government Committee passed HB 934, which would require voters to present identification each time they visit their polling place. This change was enacted in order to curb voter fraud, which of course, is detrimental to the election process that is central to our system of government.
But how widespread is voter fraud in Pennsylvania? In the 2008 presidential election, an election with comparatively higher voter turnout, only four people were charged with misrepresentation. This is only four out of the almost 6 million people who voted in Pennsylvania. Unfortunately, more than four people will be affected by the new hurdles to voting imposed by this bill.
The Committee seems to have completely ignored the reality that not all Pennsylvanians have the identification that this bill would require in order to vote. Identification such as drivers licenses, passports, military IDs, bank statements and current paychecks are not as universally available as the House members who voted for the bill seem to think they are. This bill creates a structure in which people with jobs, cars, military service, and money in their bank accounts are allowed to vote, while people who do not have access to these privileges are denied their right to vote.
The bill includes a provision where someone who cannot afford an id can cast a provisional ballot, but then they must appear before the County Board of Elections within six days to sign an affidavit stating that they are indigent and are unable to pay for identification. That is unacceptable. We need to make the voting accessible for all Pennsylvanians, not create restrictive and humiliating hoops to jump through.
Contact your representative today and ask them not to support this bill. You can remind them that voting is a cherished right for all citizens and should not be conditional on whether residents are privileged enough to have drivers licenses or bank accounts.
Today, the Pennsylvania House of Representatives is considering a bill which would make it more difficult for women in Pennsylvania to have access to abortion care. House Bill 574 would regulate abortion providers and require them to comply with the regulations for ambulatory surgical facilities as well as the regulations for ambulatory gynecological surgery.
Pennsylvania Counties with Abortion Providers
House Bill 574 is not a step forward for women’s access to abortion care and would do nothing to protect patient health and safety. This bill calls for a set of regulations that are likely to be prohibitive for abortion providers to comply with – and only 22% of the counties in Pennsylvania have an abortion provider as the map above shows. This bill requires that operating rooms be at least 400 square feet when the procedure rooms in most abortion clinics are 100-150 square feet. Adding an extra 300 square feet to a procedure room would drastically decrease the amount of patients that a clinic could accommodate, would not increase the safety of the procedure, and force clinics to pass on the cost of making these renovations to the patients. When an early abortion procedure is already $350 – and Medicaid does not cover abortion except in very limited circumstances, forcing low-income women to pay for the procedure out of pocket – it is extremely easy to see how increased fees caused by regulation would make abortion inaccessible to many women. Making abortions difficult to access does not safeguard women’s health, it makes it more likely for women to seek illegal, unsafe abortions from people like Dr. Gosnell.
Regulations are already in place to keep abortion clinics safe, from required equipment and medical supplies, reporting requirements, staff licensing requirements, complications reporting and many other requirements in the code for Ambulatory Gynecological Surgery in Hospitals and Clinics. On top of that, abortion providers in Pennsylvania already have to comply with codes from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration as well as regulations from the Abortion Control Act. The regulations that would be added under HB 574 are unnecessary since there are already extremely comprehensive regulations in place in Pennsylvania.
Call your state representative today and tell them – no on HB 574.