Advocates rally on the grounds of the state Capitol during a national day of action on abortion rights on Tuesday, May 21, 2019 (Capital-Star photo).
By Signe Espinoza
With just a couple of months left in the year, it is difficult to accept that 2021 has not been much better than 2020. In Pennsylvania, we have continued to weather the pandemic while also navigating attacks on abortion rights that the Republican caucus has sponsored in previous years.
GOP legislators in this state continued to discredit science and continued to work tirelessly to restrict our right to health care. While the GOP continues to push their anti-science agenda, the lives of our supporters, and their own supporters, are being lost.
At Planned Parenthood, we are familiar with how harmful misinformation campaigns can be. Misinformation, when it comes to safe and legal health care, disproportionately impacts people who already face numerous barriers to care such as people of color, LGBTQ folks, young people, and people with low incomes.
The track record of the Republican caucuses in the Legislature, ... shows that they are anti-science and anti-public health.
– Signe Espinoza
According to Guttmacher’s midyear trends, 2021 is by far the worst legislative year ever for abortion rights. GOP lawmakers in Pennsylvania are spreading misinformation and lies about the COVID-19 vaccine, and they are also the ones pushing numerous anti-abortion bills through the legislature.
The track record of the Republican caucuses in the Legislature, perhaps best represented by state Rep. Stephanie Borowicz, R-Clinton, shows that they are anti-science and anti-public health.
Borowicz, along with many of her other GOP colleagues, has sponsored HB904, a 6-week abortion ban that would nearly eliminate access to abortion care in Pennsylvania. At a rally in June, Borowicz, despite her record of continuously attempting to restrict pregnant people’s constitutional right to abortion care, claimed that when it comes to vaccines, “it’s all about our choice to be able to decide in liberty and freedom.”
The website for the organization that held the rally shows people holding up signs falsely claiming “vaccines can cause injury and death.” All this is despite data from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) that affirms that the COVID-19 vaccine and abortion care are both safe and effective.
This is not to mention the fact that the communities hit hardest by decimated access to abortion and by the COVID-19 virus have been communities of color. It is not a stretch to say that Republicans in the Legislature are not only anti-science and anti-public health but also hostile to communities of color.
What’s frustrating is that GOP lawmakers such as Borowicz don’t understand citing personal liberty and freedom doesn’t hold water when the decisions being made impact entire communities.
Getting the COVID-19 vaccine is not just a personal decision. It is a decision that protects not only yourself, but your family, friends, coworkers, and any stranger you may come into contact within your daily life.
Whereas, when reproductive health advocates cite liberty and freedom, it is in the context of a procedure — abortion — that necessarily only directly affects the person who is pregnant.
Just in case Borowicz is unaware, pregnancy is not contagious.
Despite the countless studies and evidence that demonstrates abortion and the COVID-19 vaccines are safe, GOP lawmakers such as Borowicz continue to spread misinformation about their safety. The truth is, whether they like it or not, vaccines and access to safe, legal abortions save lives.
In this moment, we need trusted sources and organizations to invest in spreading the word, the truth. This is why Planned Parenthood Association of Pennsylvania (PPAP) launched its first-ever COVID-19 outreach program, the Protect. Every. Body campaign.
A core focus of the Protect. Every. Body. campaign is ensuring that the hardest-hit communities get the information and healthcare they deserve.
With a special focus on young people, PPAP has hired multiple COVID Youth Fellows across the state to carry out on-the-ground outreach to spread accurate information about the COVID-19 vaccines. The fellows will organize in cities across Pennsylvania — Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, Lancaster, Reading — and work with Planned Parenthood Generation Action councils on college campuses.
Signe Espinoza (she/her/hers) is the interim Executive Director of Planned Parenthood Association of Pennsylvania (PPAP) and Planned Parenthood Pennsylvania Advocates (PPPA). She writes from Harrisburg.
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