Policy hearing continues discussion of navigating post-Roe Pennsylvania

Focus on how to sustain, expand abortion access

PHILADELPHIA, JULY 26 – The House and Senate Democratic Policy Committees continued a series of hearings Tuesday to further discuss the impacts of the Supreme Court overturning Roe v. Wade, and what the future of reproductive healthcare looks like in Pennsylvania.

Tuesday’s hearing featured testimony from medical professionals and reproductive healthcare advocates. Much of the discussion focused on how lawmakers can help not only sustain abortion access in Pennsylvania, but expand access as well.

“We all know that we are in an extremely difficult environment after the decision was made by the Supreme Court. On one hand, we celebrate and acknowledge that abortion access is available and accessible here in the commonwealth. But we also have to recognize that access is under threat every single day,” said Rep. Morgan Cephas (D-Philadelphia), who co-hosted Tuesday’s hearing. “We have to do our due diligence to understand what the climate is on the ground and better understand how we can better protect and expand that access here in the commonwealth.

Dr. Aasta Mehta, a Medical Officer of Women’s Health for the Philadelphia Health Department, testified that Pennsylvania is in the midst of a maternal mortality crisis, one that’s disproportionately impacting Black and low-income people. Dr. Mehta said restricting abortion access will only exacerbate that crisis.

“Evidence shows that access to reproductive health services, including abortion, improves health outcomes and supports economic mobility and success. Being denied access to abortion poor health, financial, and family outcomes for women and birthing people,” said Dr. Mehta.

The hearing also featured testimony from Céshia Elmore, a Community Organizer with New Voices for Reproductive Justice, the first Black, women-led Reproductive Justice organization in Pennsylvania. Elmore noted that just because abortion is still legal in Pennsylvania, that doesn’t mean it’s accessible. The commonwealth has just 17 abortion providers across all 67 counties. Elmore said expanding access is not just a healthcare issue, it’s a social justice issue.

“We have the right to create families as we see fit. Black birthing people are in a fight for our bodily autonomy and our right to create families in a way that aligns with our needs,” said Elmore. “Abortion access allows for there to be the legal and medical freedom and protection for fertility treatments like IVF, and comprehensive birth control options like IUDs and other contraceptives.”

Planned Parenthood Pennsylvania (PPP) serves more than 90,000 patients across the commonwealth. Signe Espinoza, Executive Director of PPP, testified that providers and patients have had to navigate onerous, outdated, and unnecessary requirements and restrictions on abortion care, even before the Supreme Court’s decision. She asked lawmakers to support making Pennsylvania a state where people have access to full reproductive healthcare and can do so without having to navigate obstacles and without fear.

“We remain one of the few access states with certain restrictive, medically unnecessary pre-abortion requirements, including requiring lab work before medication abortion, which is a barrier to care and not supported by experts in the field,” said Espinoza. “We need a Pennsylvania that repeals existing restrictions and passes bills to protect and expand access to care, supports clinics and patients administratively and financially, and protects families so that they can thrive.”

This hearing was the second in a series of three hearings the House and Senate Democratic Policy Committees, in partnership with the Women’s Health Caucus, will host regarding the topic of a post-Roe Pennsylvania. The first hearing happened in Harrisburg on July 19th, the third hearing will happen in Pittsburgh on August 11th.

“These hearings are giving us great insight into what providers and advocates are seeing and hearing on the front lines of this issue. We need to do everything we can to ensure Pennsylvania is a safe place for our residents, and non-residents, looking to access abortion and other reproductive healthcare,” said Rep. Mary Jo Daley (D-Montgomery), co-chair of the Women’s Health Caucus. “The Women’s Health Caucus will never stop fighting to solidify these rights in Pennsylvania.”

Video from today’s hearing can be found here. Photos from today’s hearing can be found here.

Information about these hearings and other House Democratic Policy Committee hearings can be found at pahouse.com/policy.