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What is The Current State of Reproductive Rights?

Abortion access has been under attack since before the Roe v. Wade decision in 1973 was made law. Just last week the Supreme Court overturned almost 50 years of precedent with their decision on Dobbs v. Jackson. Now that Roe v. Wade is upended, abortion rights are in the hands of each state. States have been taking the opportunity to solidify their own laws on abortion. Currently, sixteen states, including New Jersey and New York, along with the District of Columbia have laws in place to protect abortion. Twenty-two states have laws that will ban abortion. Some of these are pre-Roe bans, or laws that were enacted prior to Roe v. Wade and retained, while others are trigger bans, or laws passed after Roe v. Wade that will go into effect after Roe was overturned.


What is S.B. 956?

In light of the uncertainty of reproductive rights, anti-abortion legislators in Pennsylvania introduced a bill, S.B. 956, that is set to pass any day now. This bill would add language to the state constitution denying any constitutional protections for abortion care. If this bill passes, there will be no right to abortions and no funding available to support abortions. This is not the first time an anti-abortion bill was introduced in the state legislature. However, in the past, Governor Tom Wolf has vetoed any anti-abortion bills that were passed. This bill is different in that the governor will not be able to veto it if passed. Once the bill receives the majority vote in both the House and the Senate in two consecutive legislative sessions, it will be added to the ballot for Pennsylvanians to vote on. If it is approved by ballot, the state constitution would be amended to make it much easier for the state to ban or severely restrict abortion if Roe was ever overturned. 


The Medical and Public Health Perspective

As a student pursuing both a medical degree and a master’s in public health, I am deeply concerned with what S.B. 956 can mean for Pennsylvania and the right to abortion. The implications of this bill will be detrimental. When abortion is not an option, pregnant people and children suffer. States with more abortion restrictions tend to have poorer health outcomes for pregnant people and children than other states, including higher rates of maternal and infant mortality. The proposed constitutional amendment would allow politicians to insert themselves into a person’s personal private decisions about their own body, their health, and their family. The amendment would undermine state protections that ensure individuals and their families have the ability to make personal and private decisions. Decisions about pregnancy must be left to a pregnant person, their family, and their faith in consultation with her doctors.

Reproductive healthcare, including abortion, is already out of reach for too many Pennsylvanians, and this bill would allow politicians to deny financial support to patients who need assistance in order to access necessary care. Instead of supporting those who already experience barriers to health care, including young people, people of color, people with disabilities, people with low incomes, and people who live in rural areas or are undocumented, S.B. 956 would place these patient’s health and lives, and the health and lives of their families, in jeopardy. 

This addition to our constitution could impact more than just abortion–this would make it the policy of the state to “protect the life of every unborn child from conception until birth”—that could have implications for contraception, IVF, and even whether or not a pregnant person gets to make their own medical decisions about how they give birth. If this language becomes a part of the constitution, politicians can enact policy that prevents providers from treating ectopic pregnancies, miscarriages, and other life-threatening conditions in pregnant people.


What Can We Do?

With Roe v. Wade hanging on by a thread, we should be strengthening our commitment to reproductive health care now, not strip away fundamental rights from Pennsylvanians. We can do this by:

  • Emailing your state legislators and let them know you do not support this bill.
  • Volunteering with Planned Parenthood Pennsylvania Advocates.
  • Donating to abortion funds in Pennsylvania like the Abortion Liberation Fund of PA and Western Pennsylvania Fund for Choice to support people who need abortions right now.
  • Sharing your story if you have accessed abortion care or any care at Planned Parenthood.

The state of reproductive rights in Pennsylvania is alarming but it is not too late. When we come together, our voices only get stronger. Let’s push back and fight for what is ours - the right to safe and legal abortion.

Tags: abortion access, s.b. 956


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