To help you understand your rights and protections, the City of Philadelphia is creating action guides on federal policies. The action guides include facts, ways you can help, and other resources.
This morning (June 24, 2022), the U.S. Supreme Court issued a decision in the Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization. This decision effectively reverses Roe v. Wade (Roe) and Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pa. v. Casey (Casey) in defiance of nearly 50 years of precedent. Losing Roe means abortion is no longer federally protected as a constitutional right.
Abortion is still legal in Pennsylvania.
Abortion is no longer federally protected as a constitutional right
The U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in the Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization overturns long-standing Supreme Court decisions Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey. These decisions had determined that abortion is a constitutional right because all Americans have a right to privacy about their own health care.
Abortion is still legal in Pennsylvania
Overturning Roe does not immediately change Pennsylvania or Philadelphia law, however, it could immediately affect access to abortion.
Pennsylvania does not have a “trigger” law, so overturning Roe does not automatically change Pennsylvania or Philadelphia law. It could however compromise access to care as patients from bordering states travel to Pennsylvania seeking abortion care. It would also confuse abortion-seekers who might become unaware of their right to access abortion care in our state.
The Dobbs opinion will embolden anti-abortion state lawmakers to advance increasingly severe restrictions.
Planned Parenthood v. Casey is a landmark U.S. Supreme Court decision that upheld Roe but opened the door to state-level restrictions. Since then, states have enacted over 1,000 restrictions on abortion—over 500 of them happening since the beginning of 2011. These restrictions are typically medically unnecessary political interference.
While abortion is legal in Pennsylvania currently, there is a distinct possibility this could change in the future.
Anti-abortion lawmakers in the Pennsylvania Legislature have already introduced Senate Bill 956/House Bill 2252, a constitutional amendment that permanently inserts personhood language into the PA constitution and would pave the way to criminalize abortion in Pennsylvania in the wake of Roe. Because of the way it is worded, this amendment will impact miscarriage management, in-vitro fertilization, and other reproductive technologies. Constitutional amendments cannot be vetoed by the governor. This amendment will likely be on the ballot in May 2023.
Abortion Access in Philadelphia
Philadelphia has a number of resources available for people who want to prevent unplanned pregnancies or need an abortion or counseling support.
Abortion is health care, and access to safe abortion services is a human right. Philadelphia has a number of resources available for people who want to prevent unplanned pregnancies or need an abortion or counseling support.
The 1977 Hyde Amendment prohibits, with few exceptions, the use of federal funds for abortion, including Medicaid coverage.
Medicaid is a joint federal-state program and states may fund Medicaid coverage of abortion care. Pennsylvania stopped funding Medicaid coverage of abortion in 1985. Pennsylvanians enrolled in Medicaid currently do not have coverage for abortion. The impact of these restrictions means that many people—especially low-income people of color—face unfair burdens in accessing safe and common medical care. Litigation challenging Pennsylvania’s ban on abortion coverage is before the PA Supreme Court.
Being denied an abortion results in worse financial and health outcomes for people denied an abortion compared to those who obtained one.
A working paper from the National Bureau of Economic Research (PDF) linked those outcomes to credit scores later in life, demonstrating greater financial distress among those denied an abortion. This included a 78 percent increase in debt behind payment and an 81 percent increase in public records related to bankruptcies, evictions, and court judgments.
Banning abortions doesn’t stop abortions
Highly restrictive abortion laws do not stop the practice, but it does make those abortions that do occur more likely to be unsafe.
Abortion restrictions correlate with poorer maternal and infant health outcomes and higher rates of maternal mortality and morbidity. Research shows that restrictive laws in places like Ohio, Utah, Wisconsin, and Texas do not improve health outcomes and in some cases led to more hardships such as delayed abortion care, more side effects, and higher costs for pregnant people.
In countries that restrict abortion, the percentage of unintended pregnancies ending in abortion has increased during the past 30 years, from 36 percent in 1990–1994 to 50 percent in 2015–2019. Complications from unsafe abortions account for an estimated 13 percent of maternal deaths worldwide. Complications from unsafe abortions account for an estimated 13 percent of maternal deaths worldwide.
Maternal mortality and healthy pregnancies
The U.S. has the highest maternal mortality rate of any developed country.
The maternal mortality rate among Black pregnant people is three times higher than the rate for White people. States that restrict abortion have higher maternal mortality than states that either protect or are neutral towards abortion. Banning abortion in the U.S. would lead to an estimated 21 percent increase in the number of pregnancy-related deaths overall and a 33 percent increase among Black pregnant people.
In the 18 states where Planned Parenthood clinics decreased by 20 percent, maternal mortality rates increased by 8 percent.
Maternal mortality rates in the 12 states where abortions were restricted by gestational age increased by 38 percent.
The impact on survivors of abuse
Bodily autonomy is critical for survivors of abuse.
As you can imagine, bodily autonomy is critical for survivors of abuse, especially if they have experienced reproductive coercion. One study found that abused women not able to get an abortion were more likely to continue experiencing abuse from a violent partner. Women who were able to get an abortion experienced a reduction in physical violence.
Pregnancy is a vulnerable time.
In the U.S., pregnant individuals are more likely to die of homicide by an intimate partner than by other pregnancy-related causes. Abortion may not be the choice all survivors make, but it’s important that it is an option. For survivors who choose to continue their pregnancies, they should be supported in seeking safety and resources. Learn more about pregnancy and survivors of abuse.
A safe and equitable future includes access to abortion
Abortion access is part of a full range of reproductive options.
Abortion is a common medical procedure. Both in-clinic procedures and medication abortion are very safe. Most Americans support legal access to abortion. Restrictions and bans on abortion reinforce inequality. Abortion access is part of a full range of reproductive options. Access to safe abortion is a human right. This right must be protected for survivors of abuse.
Most Americans and most Pennsylvanians support legal access to abortion. Here’s what you can do to help protect this right.
Call your state legislators and express your opinions on Senate Bill 956/House Bill 2252.
Have you had or supported an abortion? Consider stigma busting by sharing your story formally with groups like Shout Your Abortion, Abortion Out Loud, or informally by starting conversations with your family and friends.
Learn more about and consider volunteering with or donating to:
- The Abortion Liberation Fund of PA
- Planned Parenthood of Southeastern PA
- Women’s Law Project
- New Voices for Reproductive Justice
- The Women’s Centers
Join the Philadelphia Commission for Women and the Philadelphia Chapter of the National Organization for Women (NOW) from June 29, 2022 to August 31, 2022 for a virtual film festival and discussion on What’s at Stake: Reproductive Rights on the Ballot. This film series sheds light on the history of reproductive rights in the U.S. and the impact of policies that roll back abortion access.