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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.

4 Responses

  1. I keep hearing people talking about Woman’s rights. But what about the baby’s rights?

  2. Maria and Amy are correct. HB 1077 has not yet failed. No one at the panel said that. Maybe Elena knows something the rest of us don’t.

    Full disclosure, Amy is the communications director for the Pennsylvania Catholic Conference. While nothing in Amy’s post is a lie, she uses subjective wording to suggest the bill is something that it is not.

    First, it is disingenuous to say that the bill “merely” informs women that they have a right to view the ultrasound and the picture. The bill mandates that the screen is pointed at the woman during the US, and it requires that the image is sent to the patient, who then must deliver it to the doctor.

    Name one other medical procedure in which the image is sent to the patient. You can’t. Two years ago I sprained my wrist playing tennis, and to this day, I still have not seen the x-ray. There is no reason to send a patient, with no medical background, an image unless your objective is to shame her.

    And that goes to the second point Amy makes, that women “need to have all the information they need.” At least Amy is being transparent. The message there is, “Women don’t know what they’re doing. They’re not smart enough or emotionally mature enough to make this decision, so we have to shove it in their face.”

    This bill is an insult to women.

  3. Your report is erroneous. HB 1077 has not come up yet for a floor vote in the Pennsylvania House. Please correct the errors in your reportage.

  4. There are several factual errors here that should be addressed. The Women’s Right to Know Act (HB 1077) has not “failed” as you say. In fact, the bill successfully passed the House Health Committee by a vote of 15-7 last Monday. It has not yet been considered on the House floor.

    Furthermore, the Women’s Right to Know Act places no burdens whatsoever on women seeking abortion. It merely requires abortion providers, who are performing the ultrasound anyway, to inform the patient that she has the right to view the ultrasound image and get a copy of the print out. The patient ultimately decides for herself whether to view the ultrasound or not.

    Supporters of this bill believe that women deserve the opportunity to have all the information they need to give a fully informed consent before making such a serious and life altering decision as abortion. It is not unreasonable for the law to ensure that women have the option to obtain complete medical information about the decisions they are making for themselves and their pregnancies.

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