By Marc Stier, Director, PA Budget & Policy Center
The right to abortion is paramount to the right to personal autonomy. There is no choice as life-defining as that of whether to bring a new child into the world. Without the right to have an abortion and access to the procedure, pregnant people are denied the autonomy and freedom to make decisions about their own health, well-being, and the course of their lives.
Banning abortion would limit the rights of half the population: women, transgender, nonbinary, and gender non-conforming people, undermining their ability to be full participants in our political, social, economic, and cultural life. And the radical opinion signed by six Justices of the Supreme Court not only undermines the right to abortion but is a threat to other kinds of autonomy all of us take for granted.
The right to abortion is also critical to equity and economic justice. Restricting abortion harms people unequally. People with higher incomes already have greater access to abortion and can travel to other states or, if necessary, foreign countries where abortion is available. Those who are struggling financially, who are young, who are LGBTQ, or who are people of color have less access to the reproductive health care they urgently need. These disparities in access to vital health care will be greatly exacerbated if abortion is made illegal.
Having children is a wonderful experience for parents who want them and are able to care for them. It is also an economic burden, which can make the struggle out of poverty more difficult. Those who are denied abortion care are more likely to fall into poverty than those who receive the care they need. The odds of being unemployed are three times greater for people who have been denied an abortion than those who are able to obtain one. Denying the right to an abortion in Pennsylvania means that more of our children would grow up in poverty and suffer all of the problems that come with doing so.
PBPC works toward the goal that everyone in Pennsylvania will have quality housing, food, and health care, as well as an equal opportunity to secure an education that enables them to use their talents and abilities in ways that benefit themselves and others. A state that limits or eliminates the right to an abortion is one in which the goal of an equitable Pennsylvania is even more distant. That is why we speak out today.
The Supreme Court’s decision will not limit abortion in Pennsylvania in the short term. But make no mistake, abortion is now a central issue to state politics and will be on the Pennsylvania ballot in the November election. If Roe v. Wade is overturned, the Pennsylvania General Assembly will move quickly to limit the right to an abortion and, possibly, ban it entirely. The Republican candidate for Governor, Doug Mastriano supports banning abortion under all circumstances, with no exceptions in cases of rape or incest. He has called on the General Assembly to immediately pass the mis-named “heartbeat bill” which would ban all abortion after about six weeks when, the mistaken premise of the law asserts, a fetal heartbeat can be detected.
Finally, we note the hypocrisy at the center of the so-called right to life movement in our state and elsewhere. If those who oppose the right to abortion were seriously concerned about the well-being of fetuses and their potential to become children, they would focus their attention on ensuring that all families, including those that are expecting a child, could afford health care and child care and that every child could live in a safe, clean community with parks, recreation centers, and good schools. The infant mortality rate in Pennsylvania is in the bottom half of all states and a full 2 percentage points higher than the best states. The maternal mortality rate at 18.6 per 1000 is worse than the national average of 17.4. And our state is falling behind neighboring state in providing pre-K education which is critical to the health and opportunity of our young people.
And if those who oppose the right to an abortion were serious in their efforts to limit it, they’d enact these and other policies—such as making access to contraception easier and less expensive—that we know would drastically reduce the number of abortions.
But those who seek to ban abortion show little concern for the health of fetuses or children. They show little concern for actually reducing the number of abortions in Pennsylvania, which could be done far more effectively by enacting strong health and maternal care policies in our state than by criminalizing a procedure which large numbers of upper middle class and wealthy women will be able to access by traveling to another state.
The goal of the anti-abortion movement is to strike a blow for retrograde political ideas about the rights and status of women. In opposing this Supreme Court decision, we stand with the historical struggle to extend the right to autonomy that white men have taken for granted throughout our history to women, people of color, and all others who have been excluded from full citizenship in our state and country.
Pathway to the PA Promise of Affordable College & Good Paying Careers—With Federal Dollars
By Stephen Herzenberg, Executive Director, Keystone Research Center
As Pennsylvania state budget negotiations come to a close, our lawmakers could achieve a big win by adopting Governor Wolf’s higher education proposal. This win would be a major step towards the PA Promise of affordable college tuition and good-paying careers—and paid for in significant part with federal dollars. This win would be especially beneficial to rural Pennsylvanians and could also help meet businesses’ skill needs in occupations that pay family-supporting wages. It should have overwhelming bipartisan support. To read more about this critical element of Pennsylvania budget negotiations, go to the KRC/PBPC blog at https://krc-pbpc.org/research_publication/pathway-to-the-pa-promise-of-free-college-tuition-good-paying-careers-with-federal-dollars/
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