Frankel, Women’s Health Caucus decry focus on abortion bans

Hearings a missed opportunity to improve Pa.’s maternal health

HARRISBURG, March 18 – Health Committee Democratic Chairman Dan Frankel and the leadership of the Women’s Health Caucus expressed their disappointment and alarm Wednesday at the announcement from Health Committee Republican Chairwoman Kathy Rapp that she intends to hold a series of hearings on legislation seeking to block the women of Pennsylvania from accessing constitutionally protected abortion care.

“I stand ready to work with anyone who wants to protect and support women’s health. But interfering with abortion rights in Pennsylvania is bad for public health, bad for women and bad for families. These bills have little to do with empowering women to have more control over their own lives and how they support their families, and everything to do with making profound decisions for women, decisions that will impact their lives forever,” Frankel said.

Rapp said she would use the hearing to promote two previously failed abortion bans – one that would effectively block the procedure before most women know they are pregnant and one that would ban the procedure based on whether the reason a woman is seeking an abortion is deemed worthy by the legislature. The third bill would force women who have miscarried or who choose to terminate pregnancies to participate in end-of-life rituals.

“Session after session, we see attacks on a woman’s freedom over their own body while ignoring popular women’s health proposals,” said Rep. Mary Jo Daley, co-chair of the Women’s Health Caucus. “I urge Republicans to focus on policies that will work for women, not against them, while also recognizing everyone deserves autonomy over their own body and access to a full range of health care, which unequivocally includes abortion care.”

“I had hoped we could put our energy into working together to improve outcomes for moms and babies. If we can shape our health policy to match the research, we can create an equitable environment that supports all parents and babies through their family planning and pregnancy, and get babies off to a good start,” Frankel said.

Some of the policies proposed for supporting women include extended Medicaid coverage for mothers, doula coverage for pregnant women, substance use disorder treatment for pregnant women and new mothers and improved data collection on maternal mortality. Research shows that increasing the minimum wage, along with instituting universal preschool and affordable child care would disproportionately improve and protect the lives of mothers and children.

"There are many, many areas of common ground for members of both sides of the aisle when it comes to supporting women and women's health," said Rep. Morgan Cephas, co-chair of the Women's Health Caucus. "In the year 2021, when women are still dying from preventable causes during and after childbirth, earning less than their male counterparts and facing incredible pressure as they try to juggle their careers and their families, it's clear that we have a lot of work to do. The great news is the common ground shared by Democrats and Republicans offers a real chance to create meaningful change through legislation that is viable. The bad news is we still have some who, instead of putting in the work where progress can be made, are throwing out distractions on futile issues. “

"Governor Wolf has made it clear he will veto any attempt at an abortion ban," Cephas said. "So, instead of taking votes on bills that will go nowhere, it would be in the best interests of all women to stand solidly on our common ground and work from there so that we can actually get things done."