Dr. Laura Hatchman speaks at an abortion rights rally in Lancaster, Pa., on Wednesday, 5/4/22 (Capital-Star photo by Lauren Manelius).
By Melissa Reed, Dayle Steinberg and Sydney Etheredge
Today (March 10) is abortion provider appreciation day, and as the CEOs of the three Planned Parenthood affiliates in Pennsylvania we want to celebrate and honor the work of our doctors, nurses, clinic and medical assistants providing essential care every day in our clinics across the state. They are on the front lines of the care that so many Pennsylvanians rely on.
To our patients, it has been our honor to serve you and provide the care that you need. We are committed to our work, committed to you, and committed to the fight for sexual and reproductive freedom.
To keep up that work, the providers in our network need and deserve stronger support. Our employees need to feel safe when they go to work; our doctors need to know that practicing medicine isn’t going to make them the victim of harassment or assault. We fill an important role in our communities, despite our work being demonized and politicized.
Sexual and reproductive health care clinics like ours are often the first point of entry for medical care for many of our patients, particularly in rural or underserved areas. We pride ourselves on providing affordable and accessible care without judgment, whatever your need is when you get to us. But unfortunately, our ranks have shrunk dramatically in the past 50 years.
When Roe v Wade was decided in 1973, there were more than 100 clinics in Pennsylvania, here to serve you.
Today in the world without Roe, there are just 17, and the vast majority of Pennsylvanians live in a county that has no abortion providers at all, and are forced to travel extensively to reach critical care.
It’s no secret that the Dobbs ruling last summer threatened our ability to provide abortion and your right to receive one, and devastatingly has ended access to abortion in many states – but not here. In Pennsylvania, abortion remains legal and we’ll continue to offer it as long as that is the case. One in four women will have an abortion in their lifetime, and it’s of the utmost importance that our doors remain open and our clinics offer that service for the thousands of patients who will need it, as well as the full spectrum of sexual and reproductive health care.
Targeted Regulation of Abortion Providers (TRAP) laws, along with stigma, have made it difficult for clinics to operate and provide essential services. These regulations force our clinics to separate two of our essential services: abortion care and family planning, and as a result, both services suffer.
Year after year, our funding is threatened at the state and federal level and bills are introduced to limit the services we can provide to you. So, while we’re thrilled to see a pro-sexual and reproductive health care majority in the Pennsylvania House and in the Governor’s Mansion, our work isn’t finished and our mission isn’t safe until we have robust funding from the state and guaranteed protections to practice medicine.
Funding for our clinics is simply a good investment. The Guttmacher Institute has found that for every dollar spent on family planning, seven dollars are saved by preventing unintended pregnancies, sexually transmitted infections, and cervical cancer. The return on these investments goes beyond the critical impacts on health to include broad social and economic benefits for women, families and societies – such as increases in women’s and children’s education, increases in women’s earnings and reductions in poverty.
Right now, the U.S. is at a 30-year low for unintended pregnancy, and a historic low for pregnancy amongst teenagers — largely because of expanded access to birth control, the birth control we provide every day at our facilities. When patients lack access to affordable birth control and are unable to plan their pregnancies, there is a higher likelihood of poor health outcomes for mothers and children — including the potential for NICU stays and an increased risk of maternal mortality. This is critical now as we are seeing unacceptably high rates of maternal mortality, particularly among patients of color.
Many of our health centers are located in medically underserved areas, and many are in areas where there are no other providers of sexual health care. Research has shown that Planned Parenthood consistently provides the highest quality care when it comes to meeting the sexual and reproductive healthcare needs of people across the United States by providing the full range of birth control methods on-site; filling longer-term prescriptions; providing health care screenings, and offering shorter wait times and expanded health center hours.
Whether you come to us for abortion care or any form of sexual and reproductive health care services, it’s our pleasure to serve you with the dedicated medical professionals in each of our health centers, and we’re going to keep doing it. Thank you for your support and happy Abortion Provider Appreciation Day. We are going to celebrate the only way we now how: by providing you the care you deserve.
Melissa Reed is the CEO of Planned Parenthood Keystone. Dayle Steinberg is the CEO of Planned Parenthood Southeastern PA. Sydney Etheredge is the CEO of Planned Parenthood Western PA.
Our stories may be republished online or in print under Creative Commons license CC BY-NC-ND 4.0. We ask that you edit only for style or to shorten, provide proper attribution and link to our web site. Please see our republishing guidelines for use of photos and graphics.