By Julie Zaebst, Project Manager, Duvall Reproductive Freedom Project
Yesterday, a bipartisan group of legislators came together in Harrisburg to introduce a legislative Agenda for Women’s Health. Lately, when I hear lawmakers use the phrase “women’s health,” it makes me cringe. How have lawmakers across the country justified passing completely unnecessary regulations that require abortion clinics to have hospital-grade elevators and driveways large enough to accommodate an ambulance – a move clearly (and successfully) designed to close dozens of clinics? These regulations are necessary to protect “women’s health,” of course. Why are state legislatures rushing to require abortion providers to have admitting privileges at a nearby hospital, when complications from abortion are extremely rare and hospitals are already required to treat patients experiencing a medical emergency? Well, it’s a matter of “women’s health.”
You can understand my skepticism when the words “women’s health” come out of a politician’s mouth.
But the package of bills unveiled in Harrisburg is different. The legislation was developed by the bipartisan, bicameral Women’s Health Caucus, with the input of advocates (including real women! And real experts in women’s health!) It recognizes that women’s health and well-being are impacted by a range of issues, from economic fairness and family-friendly workplace policies to real access to reproductive and comprehensive health care. In a departure from what we’ve often seen in Harrisburg, the legislation proposes evidence-based strategies to address real health issues that women across Pennsylvania face every day.
The ACLU of Pennsylvania is excited to be a leader in the Campaign for Women’s Health, a statewide advocacy coalition supporting this package of bills. We know that advocates are tired of fighting senseless proposal after senseless proposal to restrict access to abortion care, when their families and communities have real health needs the legislature could address. This campaign gives advocates the opportunity to rally around legislation that would make real improvements in the health and well-being of women across the state right now. In fact, last legislative session, three bills that were a part of the Campaign for Women’s Health were signed into law. This includes a bill that prohibits municipalities from punishing victims of crime, including survivors of domestic violence, for calling for emergency services.
I’m looking forward to more legislative successes this session – and to being able to keep a straight face when Pennsylvania lawmakers utter the words “women’s health.”
You can learn more about the Campaign for Women’s Health and how to get involved at www.pa4womenshealth.org.