Abortion & Reproductive Health

We are the de facto legal arm of the reproductive rights movement in Pennsylvania.

We have been working to protect and advance reproductive rights and legally representing abortion providers in Pennsylvania since our doors opened in 1974. Our work includes direct legal counsel for providers, expert policy analysis and advocacy, coalition organizing, original scholarship and community education. Our work is grounded in the perspective that equality for women and girls can’t be achieved without reproductive freedom, which includes equal access to the full range of reproductive healthcare.

The fight over reproductive rights is in the states, where 1,074 abortion restrictions have been enacted since Roe v. Wade, the landmark 1973 decision in which the United States Supreme Court held that the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution protects a woman’s right to terminate a pregnancy.

We guide our clients through increasingly complex and burdensome sets of regulations and amid an onslaught of legislation designed to force them to close their doors. According to the state Department of Health, Pennsylvania has at least 1,237 pages of abortion statutes, regulations and administrative guidances, with more regulations proposed through legislation all the time. With our two offices in Pennsylvania, specialty expertise, and decades-long relationships with state and local agencies, we are uniquely situated to meet the reproductive rights fight right here in Pennsylvania, while creating a significant track record of national impact.

We have represented plaintiffs in three landmark U.S. Supreme Court decisions, and participated in numerous high-profile cases by representing amici curiae. Most recently, Women’s Law Project attorneys co-authored a brief on behalf of Pennsylvania abortion providers that was cited by Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg in her powerful concurrence in the landmark victory Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt.

We have filed litigation when Pennsylvania women are not afforded healthcare to which they are entitled. In 2015, when Pennsylvania finally agreed to expand Medicaid program as intended under the Affordable Care Act, we partnered with Community Legal Services to file a federal class-action lawsuit claiming that the Pennsylvania Department of Human Services (DHS) unlawfully delayed the enrollment of tens of thousands of Pennsylvania women into comprehensive Medicaid coverage for which they were qualified. The situation was resolved, and tens of thousands of women obtained health insurance.

Now more than ever, our commitment to removing barriers to reproductive healthcare also means addressing clinic violence and taking measures to protect both physicians and patients. In the last few years, there has been a significant rise in reports of targeted harassment of abortion providers, and simultaneous ongoing attempts to knock down “buffer zones” in order to get physically closer to patients in Pennsylvania.

Our work protecting the rights of women who are incarcerated includes litigation and advocacy against shackling pregnant women with handcuffs and leg irons, and for women denied abortion care through Medicaid while incarcerated. To protect the rights of young women, we have trained judges, judicial clerks, attorneys and clinic workers on Pennsylvania’s parental consent statute and have directly represented young women in judicial bypass proceedings.

Notable Litigation & Amicus Curiae Representation

Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt, 579 US _ (2016). Counsel for ten abortion providers in amicus curiae brief to the U.S. Supreme Court which contributed to the Supreme Court striking down the Texas law subjecting clinics to admitting privileges and ambulatory surgical regulations.

National Abortion Federation (NAF) v. Center for Medical Progress, C15-3522 (9th Cir. 2016). Counsel for amici urging affirmance of preliminary injunction prohibiting disclosure of stealthily recorded videos of 2014 and 2015 National Abortion Federation annual meetings, in violation of signed confidentiality agreements.

Colleen Reilly, Becky Biter, and Rosalie Gross v. City of Harrisburg, 1:16-cv-510 (M.D. Pa. 2016). Representation of non-party witnesses for defendant in abortion protesters’ First Amendment challenge to Harrisburg’s 20-foot fixed buffer zone ordinance.

Bruni v. City of Pittsburgh, 91 F. Supp. 3d 658, (W.D. Pa. 2015), vacated, in part, affirmed in part, remanded by, 2016 U.S. App. LEXIS 10019 (3d Cir. Pa., June 1, 2016). Counsel for amici curiae in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit on behalf of Planned Parenthood of Western Pennsylvania and Pittsburgh Pro-Choice Escorts opposing a First Amendment challenge to Pittsburgh’s 15-foot buffer zone, which the Court ruled constitutional.

Planned Parenthood Southeastern Pennsylvania, New Voices Pittsburgh, and Michelle Bonaventura v. Beverly Mackereth and Dionisio Mignacca, C.A. No. 2015-cv-135 (E.D. Pa. 2015). Co-counsel for class of women challenging refusal of PA Department of Human Services to timely transfer to comprehensive coverage approximately 85,000 women enrolled in SelectPlan for Women, a limited Medicaid category covering only family planning.

Blades v. Brushaw 1:11-cv-00026-MPK (W.D. Pa. 2012). Co-counsel in civil rights lawsuit by a former prisoner challenging shackling while giving birth to her baby en route to a hospital.

Kuhns v. City of Allentown, C.A. No. 08-2606 (E.D. Pa. 2011). Co-counsel for defendant Allentown Women’s Center in abortion protest case). (attach provider affidavit)

Brown v. City of Pittsburgh, 586 F.3d 263 (3d Cir. Pa. 2009). Supported City of Pittsburgh in its defense of a protester challenge to the constitutionality of the buffer zone in support of which WLP had researched, designed, and successfully advocated in 2005.

Anspach v. City of Philadelphia, 503 F.3d 256 (3d Cir. 2007). Counsel for amici curiae supporting successful city health center sued by parents of teenage girl who consented to emergency contraception without parental involvement.

Alaska v. Planned Parenthood of Alaska No. 6184 (Alaska Nov.2, 2007) .Counsel for amicus curai in support of Planned Parenthood of Alaska’s challenge to the Alaska’s judicial bypass law.

Farley v. City of Philadelphia, No. 06-2110 (E.D. Pa. 2006). Co-counsel for plaintiff in civil rights action challenging prison’s deliberate indifference to woman in preterm labor.

Stachokus v. Meyers, C.A. 63-E (Luzerne Cty. C.P. Aug. 5, 2002). Co-counsel for defendant pregnant woman seeking to lift ex parte state court injunction obtained by boyfriend ordering her not to terminate her pregnancy.

Ferguson v. City of Charleston, 532 U.S. 67 (2001). Co-counsel for petitioners in challenge to hospital-based police searches of pregnant women suspected of drug use.

Crawley v. Catoe, 257 F.3d 395 (4th Cir. 2001). Counsel in appeal from denial of habeas corpus petition for South Carolina woman convicted of criminal child endangerment for untreated addiction during pregnancy.

Stenberg v. Carhart, 530 U.S. 914 (2000). Counsel for seventy-five amici curiae supporting women’s equality in abortion procedure ban case.

Elizabeth Blackwell Health Center for Women v. Knoll, 61 F.3d 170 (3d Cir. 1995), cert. denied, 516 U.S. 1093 (1996). Co-counsel for plaintiffs-appellees in successful challenge to state law requiring rape and incest survivors to make police reports and requiring women with life-threatening pregnancies to have condition certified by two physicians in order to be eligible for Medicaid-funded abortions.

Roe v. Operation Rescue, 54 F.3d 133 (3d Cir. 1995) on remand, No. 88-5157 (E.D. Pa. May 23, 1995). Counsel for petitioner who successfully obtained civil contempt against clinic blockaders.

Planned Parenthood v. Casey, 505 U.S. 833 (1992). Co-counsel for plaintiffs in the landmark U.S. Supreme Court case affirming the constitutional right to abortion while changing the legal standard under which abortion restrictions are reviewed to permit restrictions that are not unduly burdensome.

Roe v. Operation Rescue 919 F.2d 857 (1990). Counsel for plaintiffs in civil action winning injunctive relief against reproductive health clinic blockades by anti-abortion activists.

ACOG v. Thornburgh 476 US 747 (1986). Counsel for plaintiffs in challenge to Pennsylvania’s Abortion Control Act of 1982 in which the U.S. Supreme Court reaffirmed the constitutional principles of Roe v. Wade.

Abortion Access

Access to abortion is under attack in in the U.S. and PA is one of the most highly restricted states for abortion access.