Today is the 43rd anniversary of Roe v. Wade.
Pennsylvania plays no small part in the story of the right to choose in the United States. Planned Parenthood v. Casey, the case that set the current standard by which courts judge the constitutionality of abortion restrictions, evolved from a challenge to Pennsylvania law (the defendant Casey is former Pennsylvania governor Robert P. Casey, father of current U.S. Senator Bob Casey). In the 1992 Casey ruling, the Supreme Court affirmed the core of Roe, but changed the constitutional standard to permit states to pass additional regulations on abortion.
Meanwhile, on March 2, the Supreme Court of the United States will once again consider abortion when it hears oral arguments in Whole Woman’s Health v. Cole.
In Whole Woman’s Health v. Cole, the justices will review two provisions of HB2, a Texas law designed to shut down clinics that provide safe, legal abortion services under the guise of improving women’s health. In doing so, they will answer the question reproductive rights advocates have been asking for the last several years: If the Constitution protects the right to abortion, how can our courts uphold laws that close down safe abortion providers and thereby deny many women access to care?
The Women’s Law Project filed a friend-of-the-court brief in the Supreme Court of the United States on behalf of 10 abortion providers in Pennsylvania. You can read about that here.
As we celebrate Roe today and look forward to the Supreme Court finally addressing the exponential rise of abortion restrictions, let’s do a reality-check review of 10 facts about abortion and abortion access in Pennsylvania:
One: Pennsylvania is one of the most restrictive states in the country when it comes to abortion access. Of 14 abortion restrictions, Pennsylvania already enforces 11 and has proposed two more.
Two: In 2013, the Pennsylvania Legislature passed a law that prohibits women from purchasing private health insurance coverage through the state exchanges—in other words, through the Affordable Care Act—that covers pregnancy termination. The Pennsylvania Legislature debated, then explicitly denied, an exception for the health of the pregnant woman.
Three: In 2011, the Pennsylvania Legislature passed a controversial law mandating that freestanding abortion facilities adhere to architectural and personnel regulations established for ambulatory surgical facilities, despite opposition from all relevant medical associations. (A similar law is one of two provisions challenged in the upcoming Supreme Court case.)
Four: In 2012, Pennsylvania proposed one of the most invasive transvaginal ultrasound laws in the country. The proposed law would have not only required women seeking abortions to undergo mandatory transvaginal ultrasounds, but doctors would have had to document whether or not their patient looked at the screen during the procedure. F Governor Tom Corbett defended the bill by advising women to “just close their eyes” and deal with it. Advocates fired back, and the bill was shelved.
Five: Medicaid does not cover abortion. Public funding is available for abortion only in cases of life endangerment, rape or incest.
Six: Though no public funds cover elective abortion—and a family can’t purchase private insurance in the federally facilitated marketplace that covers abortion even when the health of the pregnant woman is threatened by continuing the pregnancy—every year in Pennsylvania, millions of dollars in taxpayer money goes to so-called “crisis pregnancy centers,” faux-medical centers with a record of lying to women.
Seven: 82% of Pennsylvania counties have no abortion providers.
Eight: In the first half of 2011, the Pennsylvania Legislature spent one-third of its voting session days advancing abortion restrictions and debating how to limit poor women’s access to abortion.
Nine: One of the only federal FACE (Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances) Act cases to be brought during the Bush Administration arose out of a Pennsylvania abortion protester’s blog which named a specific doctor, listed the doctor’s home address, license plate number, and work schedule, and advised readers to shoot her in the head because she wears a bulletproof vest to work. Recently, anti-choice advocates have been attacking Pittsburgh’s buffer zone. This month, Pennsylvania Senator Larry Farnese introduced a new bill to address clinic violence, targeted threats and intimidation, which has increased from 26.6% in 2010 to 51.9% in 2014.
Ten: Just days after three people were murdered and nine more injured in an attack on a Planned Parenthood in Colorado Springs, wherein the alleged shooter reportedly regurgitated propaganda from debunked anti-choice videos released last summer, Pennsylvania Representative Kathy Rapp distributed a co-sponsorship memo announcing her intention to propose a 20-week abortion ban. The memo contains inflammatory, medically inaccurate information, and such bans are unconstitutional.
You helped us beat back the mandatory transvaginal ultrasound bill, and we will need your voice again.
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The Women’s Law Project is the only public interest law center in Pennsylvania devoted to advancing the rights of women and girls.