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.

Access to abortion is under attack across the United States. Pennsylvania is one of the most highly restricted states for abortion access. Currently, only 13 facilities in Pennsylvania provide surgical abortion care, and 87 percent of Pennsylvania counties do not have a single healthcare clinic that provides abortion care.

In the 43 years since the U.S. Supreme Court handed down Roe v. Wade, states have enacted 1,074 abortion restrictions. One-quarter of those restrictions have been enacted in the last five years. The goal of state-level abortion bans and restrictions is to create financial, geographic and logistical barriers for women seeking to have an abortion. Many restrictions single out abortion providers with medically unnecessary regulations that are purposefully difficult, or even impossible, to meet. Anti-choice lawmakers and advocates have historically justified such regulations by claiming these laws will protect patients and improve women’s health, despite the opposition of doctors and public health experts, and a glaring lack of evidence. This anti-choice tactic was recently rejected by the U.S. Supreme Court in the landmark Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt ruling.

We have represented abortion providers in Pennsylvania since the 1970s. 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 challenged restrictive abortion laws in high-impact litigation in three cases significant to reproductive rights:

  • Planned Parenthood v. Casey (1992), the landmark U.S. Supreme Court case re-affirming the core of abortion rights and striking down Pennsylvania’s husband notification statute.
  • Elizabeth Blackwell Health Center v. Knoll (1995), striking down Pennsylvania’s rape and incest reporting requirements and second-physician certification requirements for low-income women seeking Medicaid abortions.
  • ACOG v. Thornburgh (1986), striking down Pennsylvania abortion restrictions and reaffirming Roe v. Wade.

“Bad medicine” laws are another type of state-level restriction designed to make it harder for women to access abortion. Bad medicine laws force doctors to either lie or withhold relevant information from patients, or force doctors to perform medically unnecessary procedures, such as transvaginal ultrasounds. These types of laws are currently in place in at least 35 states, including Pennsylvania.

Limits on public funding for abortion, such as the Hyde Amendment, compound the effect of these legislative attacks.

A common type of non-legislative effort to reduce access to abortion include targeted harassment of physicians and intimidating patients outside of clinics. Reports of targeted harassment of physicians and clinic staff is on the rise. Meanwhile, anti-choice activists are attempting to knock down “buffer zones” outside of healthcare facilities in two cities in Pennsylvania, so that anti-choice protesters could get physically closer to patients and staff.

The campaign to reduce access to abortion by implementing financial, logistic and geographic barriers to access abortion targets, and disproportionately affects, low-income women and women of color.