Pa Progressives Discuss “Assault on Women’s Health”
Philadelphia — At this weekend’s Pa. Progressive Summit 2012, there was a panel discussion on women’s health and public policy. The forum discussed some of the more controversial pieces of legislation within the Commonwealth and in Washington dealing with women’s health issues.
Panelists included Executive Director at Planned Parenthood Pennsylvania Advocates Sari Stevens, Director of Public Policy at Women’s Way Rebecca Foley, and Legislative Director at American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania Andy Hoover.
Panelists discussed various pieces of legislation pushed by the GOP that could have severe implications for women’s health. Stevens was particularly concerned with legislation in the General Assembly, titled the Women’s Right to Know Act, which places additional requirements on women seeking an abortion. The bill ultimately failed, but would have, in addition to the already medically required ultrasound, mandated that the ultrasound screen be in view of the patient. The patient is also required to be in possession of a photo of the ultrasound for at least twenty-four hours before the abortion is performed. Stevens emphasized the demeaning nature of the bill in practice, and argued that its specifications have no basis in medicine. Although the bill failed, Stevens was especially concerned with the amount of support it achieved in the state, with 113 co-sponsors.
Stevens expressed Planned Parenthood’s main message points regarding the mandatory ultrasound bill, stating that it is a “malicious and demeaning overreach of government intrusion into private medical care,” and that the focus of Pennsylvania legislators should be on creating jobs an improving education, not on making it difficult for women to receive a legal procedure.
State Rep. Pam DeLissio (D-Philadelphia and Montgomery) was in attendance, and reacted strongly to discussion of the failed legislation, saying she was, “beyond horrified with this bill.” DeLissio believes that the “timing of this is quite deliberate” by the majority party, that the Republicans intentionally scheduled the vote during the hectic time of Marcellus Shale and redistricting issues so legislators would not be able to focus on the details of the bill. This type of strategy precludes the opportunity for debate and full disclosure of information regarding a piece of legislation.
Stevens commented that Pennsylvania is the least progressive of the northeastern states on women’s health issues, and is on par with a state like Mississippi. She believes that many legislators are out of touch with Pennsylvania voters, who she characterized as 55 percent pro-choice.
Rebecca Foley discussed the Health Insurance Exchange Ban under the Affordable Care Act, currently pending in the Senate. Under the act, states are permitted to ban insurance coverage of abortion services from the state health insurance exchange. According to the Nelson Provision, people who utilize state insurance exchanges may pay for abortion coverage separately from their other health insurance payment.
The panel reiterated their belief in a disconnect between Pennsylvania legislators and voters, as they argued that 79 percent of residents support private insurance coverage to protect the woman’s health.