Pennsylvania’s efforts to protect women from the negative consequences of abortion have been ground-breaking, as memorialized in the landmark case Planned Parenthood v. Casey. Pennsylvania has led the way for other states by enacting such measures as informed consent, parental consent, and state funding of abortion alternatives. Even though Pennsylvania has developed significant life-affirming substantive law, the conviction of late term Philadelphia abortionist Kermit Gosnell in May, 2013 underscores the need for enhanced enforcement of existing law. Pennsylvania is not unique in this regard, but Kermit Gosnell’s case highlights the urgency to put in place effective enforcement mechanisms for pro-life laws.
- In the landmark case, Planned Parenthood v. Casey, Pennsylvania’s informed consent requirements, mandated 24-hour reflection period prior to an abortion, and parental consent requirement for a minor seeking an abortion were upheld as constitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court.
- The state requires abortion providers to state in their printed materials that it is illegal for someone to coerce a woman into having an abortion.
- Pennsylvania’s parental consent law requires one-parent consent unless there is a medical emergency or a minor obtains a court order. The law permits substitute consent by any adult standing in loco parentis if neither parent is available.
- Pennsylvania requires that abortion clinics meet the same patient care standards as facilities performing other outpatient surgeries.
- Only physicians or doctors of osteopathy licensed to practice medicine in Pennsylvania may perform abortions. Abortion providers must also maintain hospital admitting privileges.
- The state has an enforceable abortion reporting law, but does not require the reporting of information to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). The measure pertains to both surgical and nonsurgical abortions and requires abortion providers to report short-term complications.
- Pennsylvania follows the federal standard for Medicaid funding for abortions, only permitting the use of federal or state matching Medicaid funds for abortions necessary to preserve the life of the woman or when the pregnancy is the result of rape or incest.
- Pennsylvania does not provide public funding or public facilities for an abortion unless the abortion is necessary to preserve the woman’s life or the pregnancy is the result of rape or incest.
- No public funds for legal services or IOLTA (Interest on Lawyer Trust Account) funds may be used to advocate for or oppose abortion rights.
- Programs receiving funds through the state Department of Public Welfare Women’s Services programs may not be used to promote, refer for, or perform abortions, or engage in any counseling to encourage abortion. Physical and financial separation of these programs from abortion services is required.
- Pennsylvania prohibits the use of family planning funds for abortion-related activities, and requires family planning services providers and subcontractors to keep a state-funded family planning project physically and financially separate from abortion-related activities, with exceptions for abortions in cases of life endangerment, rape, or incest.
- Health plans funded by the state may not include coverage for abortion unless the abortion is necessary to preserve a woman’s life or the pregnancy is the result of rape or incest.
- Pennsylvania also requires any insurance providers offering healthcare or disability insurance within the state to offer policies that do not cover abortion except when necessary to preserve a woman’s life or when the pregnancy is the result of rape or incest.
- Pennsylvania has allocated millions of dollars to pregnancy care centers and other abortion alternative programs. Entities receiving the funds cannot perform abortions or provide abortion counseling.
- Pennsylvania offers “Choose Life” license plates, the proceeds of which are used to fund adoption and abortion alternatives services.
Legal Recognition and Protection of Unborn and Newly Born:
- Under Pennsylvania law, the killing of an unborn child at any stage of gestation is defined as homicide.
- Pennsylvania defines a nonfatal assault on an unborn child as a criminal offense.
- The state allows a wrongful death (civil) action when a viable unborn child is killed through a negligent or criminal act.
- The state has created a specific affirmative duty for physicians to provide medical care and treatment to infants born alive at any stage of development.
- Pennsylvania funds drug treatment programs for pregnant women and newborns.
- Pennsylvania law provides for “fetal death registrations.”
- Pennsylvania does not ban human cloning, but it does prohibit destructive embryo research.
- Pennsylvania prohibits experimentation on a live human fetus, but allows experimentation on a dead fetus with the consent of the mother.
- A healthcare professional providing services to a pregnant woman must advise her of the option to donate umbilical cord blood following delivery, and all healthcare facilities and providers must permit the woman to arrange for an umbilical cord donation.
- Pennsylvania requires quarterly reports of assisted reproductive technologies data, including the number of women implanted and the number of eggs fertilized, destroyed, or discarded.
End of Life Laws:
- In Pennsylvania, assisting a suicide is a felony.
Healthcare Freedom of Conscience Laws:
Participation in Abortion:
- If an objection is made in writing and is based on religious, moral, or professional grounds, a physician, nurse, staff member, or other employee of a hospital or healthcare facility is not required to participate in abortions and cannot be held liable for refusing to participate. Medical and nursing students are also protected.
- Except for facilities that perform abortions exclusively, each facility that performs abortions must prominently post a notice of the right not to participate in abortions.
- A private hospital or other healthcare facility is not required to perform abortions and may not be held liable for this refusal.
- Pennsylvania also protects healthcare providers who object to providing abortion-inducing drugs.
Participation in Research Harmful to Human Life:
- Pennsylvania currently provides no protection for the rights of healthcare providers who conscientiously object to participation in human cloning, destructive embryo research, or other forms of medical research, which violate a provider’s moral or religious belief.
What Happened in 2013:
- In May, notorious Philadelphia late-term abortionist Kermit Gosnell was convicted of two counts of murder, one count of manslaughter, 21 felony counts of illegal late-term abortions, and 211 counts of violating Pennsylvania’s “Abortion Control Act.” He was sentenced to life in prison.
- Pennsylvania enacted a law prohibiting abortion coverage in its state health insurance Exchanges required under the “Affordable Care Act.” The state also considered legislation related to abortion funding.
- Pennsylvania considered a measure related to the reporting and/or treatment of suspected prenatal exposure to drugs and alcohol.
- Pennsylvania considered legislation offering limited conscience protections for healthcare providers. The state also considered legislation offering or expanding protection for healthcare payers, but such legislation would not be enforceable against the so-called “HHS mandate” that requires nearly all health insurance plans to provide full coverage (without co-pay) of all “FDA approved contraceptives.”
Recommendations for Pennsylvania
Women’s Protection Project Priorities:
- Women’s Health Defense Act (5-month abortion limitation)
- Abortion-Inducing Drugs Safety Act
- Parental Involvement Enhancements Act
- Child Protection Act
- Review Enforcement Provisions of Existing Law and Enact Stronger Enforcement Mechanisms Where Needed
- Defunding the Abortion Industry and Advancing Women’s Health Act
- Women’s Ultrasound Right to Know Act
- Prenatal Nondiscrimination Act
- Joint Resolution Commending Pregnancy Resource Centers
- Human Cloning Prohibition Act
- Prohibition on Public Funding of Human Cloning and Destructive Embryo Research Act
Healthcare Freedom of Conscience:
- Healthcare Freedom of Conscience Act