State officials reaffirm access to reproductive health services post-Roe | Five for the Weekend

In Pennsylvania, the overall maternal mortality rate is 82 deaths per 100,000 live births, according to the Department of Health. For people of color, the mortality rate is 163 per 100,000 live births

By: - August 13, 2022 6:51 am

Sydney Etheredge, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood of Western Pennsylvania (Commonwealth Media Services photo).

Happy weekend, all. 

Last August, the Wolf administration announced that it would opt-in to the American Rescue Plan’s optional Medicaid expansion, increasing the length of postpartum coverage from 60 days to one year.

This week, state officials gathered in Pittsburgh to reaffirm that resources and options are available to mothers and pregnant people amid a confusing post-Roe v. Wade climate.

“With the overturning of Roe v. Wade, we know that many people are confused and worried about getting the reproductive health care they need and deserve to keep themselves and their families healthy,” Department of Human Services acting Secretary Meg Snead said.

DHS, which administers the commonwealth’s Medicaid program, said that those in need can access free or reduced-cost reproductive health care, including birth control, testing and treatment for sexually transmitted infections (STIs), screening and education for some types of cancer, and counseling from a health care provider about pregnancy, such as preparing for pregnancy, preventing unintended pregnancies, and enabling individuals to control the timing and spacing of pregnancies.

“We are here to tell all Pennsylvanians: whatever stage you are at in your life, there is safe, affordable reproductive, perinatal, and postpartum health care available,” Snead said.

Acting Secretary of the Department of Health and Pennsylvania Physician General Dr. Denise Johnson said the expanded Medicaid access is an effort by the administration to address barriers to access and the commonwealth’s high maternal mortality rate.

“The maternal mortality rates of people of color continue to rise and to reverse that trend we must stress that reproductive health care resources are available to keep those who are pregnant healthy and safe,” Johnson said.

In Pennsylvania, the overall maternal mortality rate is 82 deaths per 100,000 live births, according to the Department of Health. For people of color,  the mortality rate is 163 per 100,000 live births.

“We are the only industrialized nation where pregnant people are dying at a higher rate than they were 25 years ago,” Snead said, adding that “Black women bare the heaviest burden of this tragedy.”

Sydney Etheredge, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood of Western Pennsylvania, said that increased coverage, including Medicaid, will help people access the care they need.

“Medical care at any point prior to, during, and post-pregnancy, no matter what outcome the patient chooses, is essential and should be within reach for people in the Commonwealth,” Etheredge said. “Socioeconomic barriers, like cost, prevent people from obtaining the care they need, which is why we are encouraged by the expansion of Medicaid postpartum and look to further increases in coverage in the future.”

As always, the top five stories from this week are below. 

Acting Secretary of Health Dr. Denise Johnson discusses the importance of investing in maternal-child health during a press conference in Harrisburg on May 25, 2022. (Commonwealth Media Services photo)

1. Wolf admin. encourages parents, guardians to update immunizations for children ahead of school year

With the 2022-23 school year set to begin for many schools across Pennsylvania in the next few weeks, state officials are encouraging parents and guardians to make sure their children are up-to-date on their immunizations.

“Students and educators are preparing for the beginning of a new school year and opportunities to teach, learn, and grow together in classrooms across the commonwealth,” acting Education Secretary Eric Hagarty said. “As part of back-to-school preparations, I encourage families to ensure their children’s immunizations are up to date.”

To attend K-12 school, children in Pennsylvania need the following immunizations: tetanus, diphtheria, polio, MMR (measles, mumps, rubella), hepatitis B, and chickenpox. Additionally, kids entering seventh grade also need meningococcal conjugate vaccine (MCV) and tetanus, diphtheria, and acellular pertussis (Tdap) immunizations.

PHOENIX, ARIZONA – JULY 06: Cherelle Griner, the wife of Brittney Griner, speaks during a rally to support the release of detained American professional athlete Britney Griner at Footprint Center on July 06, 2022 in Phoenix, Arizona. WNBA star and Phoenix Mercury athlete Brittney Griner was detained on February 17 at a Moscow-area airport after cannabis oil was allegedly found in her luggage. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

2. Brittney Griner will be released in about 30 days, not 9 years | Michael Coard

When Brittney Griner, the 31-year-old WNBA Phoenix Mercury All-Star, two-time Olympic gold medalist and seven-year veteran of a Russian women’s basketball club, was sentenced to nine years in prison and fined $16,400 Thursday after kinda-sorta pleading guilty to bringing less than one gram of cannabis oil through the Moscow airport, almost everyone was shocked that she received such a harsh sentence.

But, in the words of Public Enemy, “Don’t believe the hype!”

She’s not gonna do nine years, or nine months or even nine weeks. Instead, I personally believe – based on the analyses of international political science scholars – that she’s gonna do approximately 30 days or less.

(Image via

3. New Pa. budget includes $140M boost to state’s Property Tax/Rent Rebate program

Inflation is causing price hikes all around Pennsylvania, but the new state budget is looking to ease one cost for the elderly and people living with disabilities.

The $45.2 billion state budget that Gov. Tom Wolf signed into law last week, providing a $140 million increase to the state’s Property Tax/Rent Rebate Program, an action that will expand payments by 70 percent for one year.

Pennsylvanians living with a disability, widows who are aged 50 and older and general residents 65 or older can qualify. The program has income limits, excluding half of Social Security income, for homeowners with an annual income under $35,000 or renters that earn under $15,000 annually.

Lick Run Road in Lycoming County, PA, north of Williamsport, makes up part of the roughly 25,000 miles of dirt or gravel roads in the state. (famartin/CC BY-SA 4.0)
© 2020 by Bay Journal Media

4. Study: Drilling wastewater on Pa. roads dangerous to human health, environment

A long-anticipated health study commissioned by Pennsylvania environmental officials examined the practice of spreading wastewater from conventional gas – and oil drilling on thousands of miles of rural dirt roads in the state. Researchers concluded that the practice doesn’t control dust effectively and poses dangers to the environment and human health.

The state Department of Environmental Protection has not yet acted based on those findings but said that the study’s impact will be “immediate, large and intense.”

“While we must be willing to accept the trade-offs between the benefits of dust suppression and the drawback of environmental impacts, this research has found that oil and wastewaters only provide drawbacks,” said William Burgos, a professor of environmental engineering at Penn State University and one of the lead authors of the study.

Republican gubernatorial nominee Doug Mastriano (City & State photo by Justin Sweitzer).

5. What is Gab? A look at the far-right social media platform backing Doug Mastriano

It’s been referred to as a “haven” for white supremacists and neo-Nazis. It’s been linked to Pennsylvania’s Republican gubernatorial nominee, state Sen. Doug Mastriano, who has paid the platform for advertising. And it has been the focus of ire from state Attorney General Josh Shapiro, the state’s Jewish Democratic nominee for governor, who has criticized his opponent for courting “antisemitic, racist, alt-right extremists” on the platform.

So what exactly is Gab, the conservative, Pennsylvania-based social media platform – and how does it factor into Pennsylvania’s race for governor? Below, City & State walks through the history of the social media platform, the type of content that appears on the site and how the platform and its founder have become a topic of conversation in the state’s midterm election for governor.

And that’s the week. We’ll see you back here next week. 

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Cassie Miller
Cassie Miller

A native Pennsylvanian, Cassie Miller worked for various publications across the Midstate before joining the team at the Pennsylvania Capital-Star. In her previous roles, she has covered everything from local sports to the financial services industry.