Planned Parenthood execs: Wolf must act now to protect abortion rights | Opinion

The governor has the power and the authority. He cannot waste any more time

Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf speaks with the press. (Commonwealth Media Services photo)

By Sydney Etheredge, Melissa Reed, and Dayle Steinberg

On Monday night, a leaked draft of the U.S. Supreme Court decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization confirms our worst fears: that the Supreme Court is prepared to end the constitutional right to abortion by overturning Roe v. Wade.

As the presidents & CEOs of the three Planned Parenthood affiliates in Pennsylvania, we are deeply concerned about the future of abortion access in the U.S. and believe that Gov. Tom Wolf must do everything in his power to secure these rights for Pennsylvanians right now.

Access to abortion has been under attack across the country for decades, but 2021 was marked by unprecedented threats.  States enacted 106 abortion restrictions in 2021 – the highest number since Roe was decided in 1973. Pennsylvania is currently considering six bills to restrict abortion and a constitutional amendment which would pave the way to further restrictions on abortion care.

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The consequences of this impending Supreme Court decision will be swift and devastating for communities nationwide.

Overturning Roe means 26 states could swiftly move to ban abortion–including 13 states with laws that could immediately go into effect. That’s nearly half of all people of reproductive age in the United States. Since those bans will likely include Ohio and West Virginia, our neighbors may need to come to Pennsylvania to access care.

Wolf campaigned as a champion of reproductive freedom—having been a clinic escort at York’s Planned Parenthood health center in previous years.  While he has been steadfast in his use of the veto pen, there is so much more that the administration can do now to remove barriers, increase access and reduce costs for people across the state.

For example, we need the Department of Health (DOH) to end requirements for unnecessary blood and urine screening for abortion services.

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We need the administration to clarify that the onerous, expensive and duplicative requirement for accreditation by the American Association for Accreditation of Ambulatory Surgery Facilities is unnecessary.

The Department of Health needs to reassess the discriminatory burden of applying Chapter 2.7 of the 2018 Facility Guidelines Institute Guidelines to abortion facilities which is inappropriate in light of Whole Women’s Health. And, we ask DOH to issue guidance related to telemedicine abortion, formalizing that any relaxation of Departmental standards granted during COVID-19 for tele-health provision of medication abortion be made permanent.

Quite frankly there is no time to waste. The people most harmed by lack of action will continue to be Black, Indigenous, and other people of color, people with disabilities, people in rural areas, young people, immigrants, and those having difficulty making ends meet — all people who face systemic barriers to care.

These requests of the administration do not require legislative confirmation and are straightforward in their aim to protect abortion services in the Commonwealth at a time when policymakers should be expanding access.

The consequences of this impending Supreme Court decision will be swift and devastating for communities nationwide.

We call on you, Gov. Wolf, to continue standing with abortion providers and patients by ensuring these actions are completed by June 30, 2022 when the Supreme Court decision will likely be made final.

At Planned Parenthood, we believe that every person deserves the ability to make their own decisions about their bodies and their lives including accessing abortion care, and we are grateful for Wolf’s leadership in withstanding attacks and protecting access to abortion.

But, with the governor’s tenure coming to an end, it is vital that he does all he can to ensure that any person in this state who needs an abortion can access one without onerous, unnecessary and expensive burdens as barriers.

Sydney Etheredge is the president & CEO, Planned Parenthood of Western Pennsylvania. Melissa Reed is the president & CEO, Planned Parenthood Keystone. Dayle Steinberg is the president & CEO, Planned Parenthood Southeastern Pennsylvania.

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Capital-Star Guest Contributor
Capital-Star Guest Contributor

The Pennsylvania Capital-Star welcomes opinion pieces from writers who share our goal of widening the conversation on how politics and public policy affects the day-to-day lives of people across the commonwealth.