Democratic lawmakers introduce bills focused on protecting reproductive rights

HARRISBURG, Oct. 6 – A group of House Democratic lawmakers are introducing bills that would strengthen protection for nurses who perform reproductive health services, and for patients who utilize them.

The bills’ sponsors are Reps. Danielle Friel Otten, D-Chester; Emily Kinkead and Dan Frankel, both D-Allegheny; Carol Hill-Evans, D-York; and Elizabeth Fiedler and Chris Rabb, both D-Phila.

The first bill would ensure nurses who perform reproductive health services, specifically for out-of-state patients seeking medical care, could not have their license or application for licensure penalized for providing such services. Reproductive health services under this legislation includes contraception, emergency contraception, and abortion or abortion-related services.

Following the U.S. Supreme Court’s June decision to overturn Roe v. Wade, many individual states have placed draconian restrictions on women’s reproductive rights, making it necessary for individuals seeking reproductive care to travel to a state where vital services remain legal.

The second bill would protect patients seeking reproductive health care by prohibiting health plans, health care clearinghouses, or health care providers in Pennsylvania from disclosing information about a person’s reproductive health services without the patient’s express written consent, or where specifically authorized or required by federal or state law.

Otten, speaking about the bills, said, “Control over one’s own reproductive health care is central to individual freedom, liberty, health, and economic opportunity.

“Decisions about a pregnancy belong to the pregnant person, not their state legislature. Abortion is health care, and if reproductive health care services are not accessible, or if patients fear that their personal, private medical information could be used against them, patients will die, whether from complications of unsafe pregnancies or from seeking care through illegitimate, unregulated providers. We need to protect both the patients seeking care and the providers who keep it safe. Legislators don’t belong in doctor’s rooms,” she said.

Kinkead, an Allegheny County Democrat who has been fiercely advocating to protect and expand reproductive rights since the overturning of Roe v. Wade, argued that the two bills are essential for preserving access to health care services in the state.

 “Protecting doctors and those who help provide abortions is just as important as protecting the patients seeking reproductive health care services,” Kinkead said. “We must eliminate any potential legal consequences for health care professionals providing contraception and performing abortions in our commonwealth.”

Fiedler and Rabb agreed.

“While extreme Republicans are working to strip away the reproductive rights of women, my Democratic colleagues and I are fighting to defend those rights,” Fiedler said. “We have authored a package of legislation that protects patients and healthcare providers and expands access to abortion services across the commonwealth.”

“There’s so much talk about liberties and freedoms in the general assembly, except when it comes to the bodily autonomy of women and birthing people,” Rabb said. “I stand with my colleagues who also sponsor this legislation to ensure that a person’s reproductive health services are kept private and that nurses performing reproductive health services are able to do so without any consequences.”

Many state leaders, including Sen. Doug Mastriano, have said that those who have reproductive health services performed, including abortion, should face criminal conviction. The bills’ sponsors said that by protecting patients’ reproductive health care records, patient privacy and freedom from unjust punishment can be safeguarded.