New PA Bill Attacks Birth Control & Cancer Screenings for Women

We all know by now that a favorite tactic of anti-choice advocates is to unload a torrent of misinformation into the public discourse, and then hope to get what Katha Pollitt calls “the muddled middle” to wonder how much of their accusations could actually be true.

[Sign a petition against defunding Planned Parenthood in Pennsylvania here.]

While a reasonable person should, ideally, be able to assume that a serious politician won’t spew false information that can be easily fact-checked, the sad fact of the matter is a reasonable person can make no such assumption. Two recent high-profile examples of this chicanery are presidential candidate Carly Fiorina’s bizarre assertions about the content of the debunked Planned Parenthood sting videos during a recent debate, and House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Rep. Jason Chaffetz pointing to a “misleading and ethically wrong” chart that he apparently didn’t know was created by an anti-abortion group, causing him to fumble his attempt at a gotcha moment while grilling Planned Parenthood president Cecile Richards.

In the end, misinformation and all, the House did vote to defund Planned Parenthood, though the bill has little chance of becoming law.

Meanwhile, anti-choice advocate are busy crafting legislative attacks on the state level, too. At least 12 states—including Pennsylvania–launched investigations into Planned Parenthood. Not one investigation has turned up evidence of wrongdoing.

Recently, the organization announced that moving forward, all facilities that donate fetal tissue for scientific research will pay the extra cost associated with packaging and transporting the tissue donation. (This change in policy isn’t even relevant to Pennsylvania, since Planned Parenthood facilities here didn’t donate fetal tissue in the first place.)

In the big picture, all these diversionary conversations are meant to distract from the fact that Planned Parenthood does not receive federal funding for abortion anyway; they only receive reimbursement for preventative health and family planning services.

So what will Pennsylvania anti-choice advocates focus on now? Restricting women’s access to contraception and pap smears.

In Pennsylvania, a bill has been introduced to stop reimbursements on preventative healthcare and family planning services at Planned Parenthood facilities.

House Bill 1623 was quietly introduced by Rep. Paul Schemel (R-Franklin) in August. Yesterday, despite the near total gridlock in Harrisburg as a result of the ongoing budget impasse, the bill was sent to the Health Committee.

From Schemel’s co-sponsorship memo:

“In the near future, I will be introducing legislation that will provide direction to the PA Department of Health as to how it must prioritize the allocation of public funds for family planning purposes. Effectively, this legislation will favor more conventional healthcare providers over unconventional providers, such as Planned Parenthood, when allocating public funds for women’s health.”

In other words, the bill would eliminate the ability of women and men to receive subsidized family planning services at Planned Parenthood health centers.

Planned Parenthood affiliates operate 32 health centers in the Commonwealth, and are Pennsylvania’s largest provider of low-cost, high quality, preventive family planning services. Last year alone, affiliates served 108,000 patients and provided 205,000 screenings for sexually transmitted diseases and 18,000 breast wellness exams.

Nearly 50% of Planned Parenthood health centers in Pennsylvania are in medically under-served areas of the state.

As was pointed out in a recent editorial in the Philadelphia Daily News, the notion that Planned Parenthood’s clients can easily be absorbed by other health facilities has been shot down in study after study.

Obviously, severing access to family planning and preventative services will not improve the status of women’s heath in Pennsylvania, which routinely ranks notoriously low across almost every indicator. Pennsylvania is already overburdened, and any further reduction in access to subsidized women’s health services will only lead to more unintended pregnancy, more untreated STDs and more undetected cancers, and ultimately, more costs for the Commonwealth.

What else are our conservative legislators doing about women’s health in Pennsylvania? Preparing to vote on a resolution to honor John Patrick Stanton (House Bill 82), a man who was best known for being charged with harassing patients outside of abortion clinics, reportedly by using homophobic and racist slurs. The introduction of this resolution, during National Women’s Health Week no less, earned Pennsylvania “worst state of the week.”

Bestowing this honor is particularly chilling given the recent rise in violent attacks at women’s health clinics. The vote is scheduled for Monday.

We demand evidence-based healthcare policy and equal access to reproductive healthcare. If you do too, please make your voice heard by signing this petition.

Stay up to date on this topic, the PA Campaign for Women’s Health, and policy related to the status of women and girls in Pennsylvania by following us on twitter and tumblr and liking us on Facebook

Founded in 1974, the Women’s Law Project is the only public interest law center devoted to women’s rights in Pennsylvania. WLP is a founding member of the PA Campaign for Women’s Health, a growing collaboration of organizations and individuals calling for an end to ideological politics trumping common-sense policy solutions in Pennsylvania. 

Text: Tara Murtha

About womenslawproject

The Women's Law Project creates a more just and equitable society by advancing the rights and status of all women throughout their lives. To this end, we engage in high-impact litigation, advocacy, and education.
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