Abortion in Pennsylvania
In the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision, the US Supreme Court ruled that a woman, in consultation with her physician, has a constitutionally protected right to chose abortion in the early stages of pregnancy; before viability.
The Abortion Control Act of 1989 was spearheaded and signed into law by Governor Bob Casey, (whose son is now our freshman US Senator, Bob Casey, Jr.) and five of its provisions were immediately challenged in court by Planned Parenthood of Southeast PA. This landmark case came to be known as Planned Parenthood v. Casey. Five health centers and several physicians in Pennsylvania filed the suit in US District Court. Their argument was that the five provisions of the law were unconstitutional: informed consent of the patient, spousal consent for married women, parental consent for minors, the 24-hour waiting period, and some aspects of the reporting requirements for health care providers. The US District Court found all five provisions to be unconstitutional, and put an injunction on the law in place. Pennsylvania appealed the decision to the Third Circuit Court which upheld all of the regulations except for the spousal notification requirement. In the US Supreme Court, the majority decision upheld Roe v. Wade but also four of the five restrictions; striking down only the spousal notification clause of the law. This case also expanded the ability of states to enact all but the most extreme restrictions on women's access to abortion.
Planned Parenthood v. Casey as well as Pennsylvania's Abortion Control Act set the trend for abortion legislation across the United States.
Pennsylvania has some of the most restrictive abortion laws in the nation. The 1989 Pennsylvania Abortion Control Act upheld by the Supreme Court was one of the first comprehensive sets of abortion restrictions in the country, and began a nearly twenty-year trend of slowly chipping away at a woman’s right to choose through what seem like small restrictions, but add up to a significant burden on women seeking abortion.
The Abortion Control Act includes the following restrictions:
- A 24-hour waiting period between a positive pregnancy test and an abortion procedure.
- A mandated lecture with materials produced by the state. This lecture includes outdated and exaggerated information, and was included in the law as an attempt to convince women not to go forward with the procedure. There is no other medical procedure in existence which includes similar protocol.
- For a woman under the age of 18, before the 24-hour waiting period goes into effect, a parent must come in to witness the mandated lecture. The same parent must come in on the day of the procedure to sign a consent form. The only way to forego this section of the law is by court order, an often intimidating and convoluted system to navigate as a young woman.
- No state or federal public funds can subsidize abortion counseling, referrals or procedures.
Currently, there is no legislation pending on the state level to advance a woman's right to choose, or to further restrict abortions in Pennsylvania. Polling done in 2007 shows that 67% Pennsylvanians agree that we should limit government interference in private, personal medical decisions, support pregnancy prevention programs and not start the abortion debate again, but focus instead on other issues important to Pennsylvanians.
What You Can Do
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