Pennsylvania women should prepare to defend abortion rights in the face of a draft Supreme Court decision to upset Roe v. Wade lest this lead to further erosion of the medical system’s treatment of women, the panelists at a YWCA Greater Pittsburgh Panel about reproductive justice.
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dr Margaret Larkins-Pettigrew, Chief Clinical Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Officer for the Allegheny Health Networkmoderated the panel, highlighting issues of access to abortion, sex education, and the disproportionate harm to women of color that would accompany a decision to invoke Roe v. to fall Wade.
Sydney Etheredge, the CEO of Planned Parenthood in Western Pennsylvaniasaid the health care system of the United States has a Patterns of “Othering” people, including women, people of color, and the LGBTQ+ community.
“And by allowing this to happen more broadly across healthcare,” Etheredge said, “we can see these attacks on sexual and reproductive health care.”
Kelly Davis, the managing director of New voices for reproductive justiceadding that some in the medical community are already prone to turning patients over to law enforcement with problems like substance abuse — especially when they’re people of color.
“While access to abortion is indeed beneficial to everyone – regardless of gender, race or ethnicity – when it is taken away, not everyone is equally harmed,” Davis said. “We know doctors and medical systems are often a warm surrender to criminalization, and that’s what’s most at risk here. Who will be handed over to the criminal justice system? I firmly believe it will be black women and other people of color.”
Christine Castro, attorney at the Women’s Rights Projectsaid though pennsylvania is likely to be visited by out-of-state patients seeking an abortion if Roe v. Wade is lifted, the state should not be viewed as a haven for reproductive health care.
“To be clear, Pennsylvania is not a haven for reproductive health care. There are many more state laws and regulations restricting access to abortion and regulating the provision of abortion care here,” Castro said. For example, pregnant Pennsylvanian women must consult a doctor at least 24 hours before an abortion, and minors must have a parent’s permission. “Nevertheless, we expect an influx of patients from abroad coming in to receive reproductive healthcare.”
Panelists concluded the discussion by telling participants what they can do to help, including writing letters to lawmakers, donating to abortion clinics, voting for access to abortion, and volunteering with reproductive justice organizations. Davis urged audiences to destigmatize abortion by helping and speaking out.
“Share your abortion story, share your reproductive story, share your first birth story,” Davis said, “and let everyone know that you love someone, know someone who has chosen to have an abortion.”
Punya Bhasin is a freelance journalist based in Pittsburgh. She can be reached at [email protected].
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