This morning, we were happy to once again join Tuesdays with Toomey, the grassroots advocacy group devoted to motivating Pennsylvanians to speak out on important issues while attempting to hold Sen. Pat Toomey accountable to his constituents.
Every Tuesday, Pennsylvanians from all over the state gather outside of Toomey’s offices to discuss healthcare, reproductive rights, Medicaid, jobs, and the environment. Today’s topic is women and healthcare, so Women’s Law Project Executive Director Carol Tracy spoke to the crowd about reproductive healthcare, the misleading notion of “defunding” Planned Parenthood, and how right now, we need to watch out for attacks both from Congress and the Pennsylvania Legislature.
Here are Carol’s full remarks:
Good afternoon. My name is Carol Tracy and I am here representing the Women’s Law Project, a public interest legal organization devoted to protecting and advancing the rights of women and girls.
We work for equal access to healthcare, regardless of income, ZIPcode, race, religion and gender. We work for equal access to reproductive healthcare, including safe and legal abortion, and because it actually needs to STILL be said in 2017, equal access to contraception.
One way I think about the Women’s Law Project is that we are the de facto legal arm of the movement for women’s equality in Pennsylvania.
To that end, we have been legally representing abortion providers in Pennsylvania since 1974, the year after Roe v. Wade, so they can stay open.
Protecting women’s rights also means monitoring the never-ending legislative attacks on women’s health and economic security, from Congress and the federal government, and from here within the Pennsylvania State Legislature.
Right now, that is quite a dangerous combination.
Like you, I was relieved to watch the vote to repeal the Affordable Care Act end in failure (though we know the fight is not over). Every single medical and healthcare expert warned that the Trumpcare would be disastrous for Pennsylvanians, indeed all Americans, and particularly women—especially the parts championed by our honoree today, the perpetually-somewhere-else Senator Pat Toomey.
Let’s start with defunding Planned Parenthood. So we’re clear, let’s define “defunding.” There is no line item in the budget that funds Planned Parenthood.
When we say “defunding Planned Parenthood,” what we are referring to is a plan to ban Medicaid dollars from reimbursing a healthcare provider for providing patients preventative healthcare, solely because that particular patient obtained her healthcare at Planned Parenthood.
… So much for all the rhetoric about “freedom” and “patient choice.”
Secondly, Pennsylvania routinely has disastrous scores for women’s health and economic security, and more than half of all pregnancies in Pennsylvania are unplanned. What on earth are we doing restricting access to preventative reproductive healthcare?
Third, and this is key: opponents of Planned Parenthood will tell you that Pennsylvanians should just go find another provider — except that every single analysis shows us there are not enough healthcare facilities to absorb the tens of thousands of patients Planned Parenthood sees in Pennsylvania every year.
They simply do not exist.
Planned Parenthood is a central part of the healthcare safety net in Pennsylvania, and if you cut that safety net, families will fall.
Pushing back on Congress is vital, and we saw the pressure pay off. But to be clear, we must focus on the state Legislature as well.
For starters, there’s an effort to “defund” Planned Parenthood on the state level also, through a bill called Senate Bill 300.
Then there’s Senate Bill 3, one of severe abortion restrictions in the country.
Senate Bill 3 is part of the Trump agenda to punish women for seeking abortion care, by criminalizing pregnancy termination after 20 weeks, and criminalizing a common, safe procedure.
It is dangerous, and it is unconstitutional, but that is not stopping them.
Only WE can stop it … by letting our lawmakers know we will NOT go back.
Our bodies are NOT chessboards for men in power to play games with–
Our lives are NOT collateral damage for a culture war manufactured by special interest groups–
Our children, no matter what their needs, are NOT a burden on society–
WE are not failing society needing contraception or maternity care or Medicaid for our babies and children with special needs, we ARE society. It’s our families that create our communities, that make up America. It is our so-called representatives—disproportionately men, disproportionately white, disproportionately rich—who are failing us.
The Women’s Law Project is the only public interest law center in Pennsylvania devoted to advancing the rights of women and girls.
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