Access to reproductive health care is a basic freedom, advocates say at Capitol rally

Access to reproductive health care is essential to freedom and equity and those who would restrict or criminalize it are an extremist minority, advocates said at a rally Monday on the steps of the Pennsylvania Capitol.

The event, led by State Representative Elizabeth Fiedler, D-Philadelphia, featured speakers from black, lantinx and religious perspectives who called on the eight out of 10 Pennsylvanians who support abortion rights to vote in the interest of women.

“Since the Dobbs decision, we have seen millions of women, millions of supporters of all genders, people like you who believe in freedom and bodily autonomy, stand up, register to vote, talk with their friends and their families and having tough conversations not knowing how they will end up,” Fiedler said.

“We’re not going to stop when we want abortion freedom, are we? said Fiedler.

Since the U.S. Supreme Court overturned the Roe v. Wade decision, which created a nationwide right to abortion, state lawmakers across the country have moved to restrict or ban the procedure, which nearly than a quarter of American women will have at some point in their lives. Lives.

In Pennsylvania, the General Assembly this summer passed a bill to amend the state Constitution to explicitly declare that there is no right to abortion. The bill must be passed again in the next session and the proposed amendment could be put to voters in a referendum in the spring.

Debasri Ghosh, chief executive of the National Network of Abortion Funds, said restrictions in other states have sent a flood of women from Ohio, Oklahoma, Texas and elsewhere to Pennsylvania seeking abortion care.

“People [travel] hundreds of miles to get a procedure as safe as a root canal. A procedure that often takes minutes in a clinic or can be safely managed at home using pills prescribed by a provider,” Ghosh said.

Abortion is a normal, safe and routine part of pregnancy care, Ghosh said.

“The only reason it’s a political issue today is because it’s been politicized and militarized by a small group of ultra-conservatives who are trying to mobilize their base to take away our autonomy,” Ghosh said.

Dr. Sheree Livingston, chair of the department of obstetrics and gynecology at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center in Lititz, Lancaster County, said reproductive health care is crucial for people of color, who are three to four times more likely to die in childbirth.

“As we strive to minimize health disparities, it is important that we provide safe, legal and essential abortion care. We must continue to fight for this fundamental freedom and this fundamental human right. We demand reproductive justice,” Livingston said.

Francisca Mendez, a leading member of the Latino rights organization Make the Road PA, said the abortion ban was not meant to protect anyone, but to control.

Mendez, who spoke in Spanish and had his remarks later translated, listed instances in which elected officials allowed children to be harmed in refugee camps and immigration detention centers and customs. This included cases in which children as young as five were separated from their parents at the Mexican border and when immigration officials tried to prevent a teenage migrant pregnant as a result of rape from entering the states. United in search of abortion care. .

“They are just protecting the fetuses. And when the child is born, they abandon them. It’s not about protecting life. It’s about controlling ourselves and our bodies. Only we decide that she should have the option of wanting to be pregnant,” Mendez said.

Abby Tennis, senior minister of the First Unitarian Church of Philadelphia, said the media often gives the impression that there is only one religious perspective on abortion.

“There are many religious traditions, many worshipers, many clergy who believe like me that choosing to have an abortion is not just a deeply personal choice, but it is a fundamental right,” Tennis said. .

For some, abortion is a blessing, Tennis said, telling the story of a devotee who had an abortion when she was young and wasn’t ready to be a parent.

“His choice at this early stage in his life is what made possible his wonderful family and his fulfilling life and career,” Tennis said.

For others, abortion was essential to escape an abusive relationship or a choice between living and dying, Tennis said.

“So my friends, if you are someone who got pregnant at a time in life when you weren’t ready to get pregnant, say this out loud with me: your choice is holy and you are loved” , said Tennis, leading the crowd in a chant.

Lindsey Mauldin of Planned Parenthood of Southwest Pennsylvania said the fight to protect access to abortion has been going on in Pennsylvania since the 1980s and the state’s Abortion Control Act has created a burden on patients and providers.

The abortion ban effort would have far-reaching impacts if successful, threatening privacy in medical and personal matters and leading to higher maternal and infant mortality rates.

” Let’s be clear. Removing access to abortion will cost people their lives. It is not freedom. It’s not the Pennsylvania we deserve,” Mauldin said.

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