Pro-life advocacy is a priority for PCC staff in each legislative session. The 2013-2014 session is no different, with staff and advocates working to keep taxpayer funded abortions out of the federal health care exchanges to be set up in Pennsylvania. Advocates, including you, can easily send a message to legislators by clicking here. For the first time in decades, the prospect of execution is imminent, with several prisoners exhausting their appeals in recent and coming months. You can send a message about that issue here. These are just two examples of the respect for life debate in Pennsylvania. [Update: Pro-Life HB 818 passed in June. Elective abortion coverage cannot be included in the insurance plans set up in the Pennsylvania exchange. Read more here]
The roots of Pennsylvania’s pro-life laws are found in the Abortion Control Act. The PCC was instrumental in the passage of the Abortion Control Act in 1982 and its subsequent amendments. The law was ultimately upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1994 in Planned Parenthood v. Casey.
To see how Pennsylvania compares to other states, we can look to the state-by-state analysis produced by Americans United for Life (AUL), which ranks each state on its protection of life policies. This year Pennsylvania is again ranked #3 on the list.
It is clear that, to be truly a Commonwealth of citizens that protect life from conception to natural death, Pennsylvania must continue to be a leader in passing legislation that shows respect for the human person. Imagine the voices of Pennsylvania’s 3 million Catholics speaking together in support of pro-life issues! Send a message to your legislator in support of pro life legislation today.
Summary of Pennsylvania’s Pro-Life Laws:
The successes in Pennsylvania to protect life and conscience (some of which are listed in the AUL report) are listed below.
Current Abortion Regulations in PA:
- Informed consent requirements
- Mandated 24-hour reflection period prior to an abortion
- Parental consent required for a minor seeking an abortion or, in the absence thereof, a court order allowing the abortion to proceed
- Abortion providers are required to state in their printed materials that it is illegal for someone to coerce a woman into having an abortion
- Medicaid funds cannot be used for abortion unless to save the life of the mother, or in cases of rape or incest
- No public funding or public facilities may be used for abortion unless abortion is necessary to save the life of the mother or the pregnancy is the result of rape or incest
- No health plan for state employees shall include coverage for abortion unless abortion is necessary to save the life of the mother or in cases of rape or incest
- No public funds for legal services or IOLTA (legal aid fund) funds may be used to advocate for abortion rights
- Programs receiving funds through the Department of Welfare, women’s services programs may not promote, refer for, or perform abortions or engage in any counseling to encourage abortion, and physical and financial separation 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 abortion in the case life endangerment, rape or incest.
- Abortion clinics must meet the same health and safety standards as ambulatory surgical centers (Act 122 enacted on December 22, 2011 following the Grand Jury Report concerning the Gosnell clinic in Philadelphia).
- Only physicians or doctors of osteopathy licensed to practice medicine in PA are allowed to perform abortions. Abortion providers must maintain hospital admitting privileges at Pennsylvania hospitals or have in place a written transfer agreement with a hospital which has emergency and surgical services available.
- 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.
- Pa offers “Choose Life” license plates, the proceeds of which are used to fund adoption and abortion alternatives programs.
- Pennsylvania also requires any insurance providers offering health care or disability insurance within the state to offer policies that do not cover abortion except when necessary to save the life of the mother or when the pregnancy is the result of rape or incest. Insurance providers may offer policies which do not cover abortions at all.
- The state has an enforceable abortion reporting law. The measure pertains to both surgical and nonsurgical abortions and requires abortion providers to report short-term complications.
Legal Recognition of Unborn and Newly Born:
- Under Pennsylvania criminal 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 wrongful death (civil) actions 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 born-alive infants at any stage of development.
- Pennsylvania funds drug treatment programs for pregnant women and newborns.
- Pennsylvania law provides for “fetal death registrations.”
- Pennsylvania law provides for certificates of birth for stillborn babies.
- Pennsylvania does not ban or regulate human cloning, but it does prohibit destructive embryo research performed in Pennsylvania. It does not however prohibit embryonic stem cell research where the cells are extracted in another jurisdiction.
- Pennsylvania prohibits experimentations on a live human baby, but allows experimentation on a dead baby with consent of the mother.
- A healthcare provider 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 number of eggs fertilized, destroyed, or discarded, and the number of women implanted.
End of Life Laws:
- In Pennsylvania, assisting a suicide is a felony.
- Pennsylvania’s Living Will and Health Care Power of Attorney Law specifically states that it does not “condone, authorize or approve of mercy killing, euthanasia or aided suicide.”
a) An employee or staff member of a health care provider may not be required to participate in the withholding or withdrawal of life-sustaining treatment.
b) In the case of an incompetent pregnant woman who has an end stage medical condition or who is permanently unconscious, life sustaining treatment, nutrition and hydration shall be provided notwithstanding the existence of a living will, a health care decision by a health care representative or health care agent or any other direction to the contrary, unless such treatment will not maintain the pregnant woman in such a way to permit the continuing development or live birth of the unborn child or if such treatment will cause her harm or pain that cannot be alleviated by medication
Healthcare Rights of Conscience Laws:
Note: This is a list of laws at the state level. At the national level, the contraceptive mandate imposed on health plans by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) violates freedom of conscience, which is guaranteed by the First Amendment and several federal laws. Send a message in support of conscience here.
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 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.
- Pennsylvania’s Managed Care Law provides that “a managed care plan shall not exclude, discriminate against or penalize any health care provider for its refusal to allow, perform, participate in or refer for health care services when the refusal of the health care provider is based on moral or religious grounds and that provider makes adequate information available to enrollees or, if applicable, prospective enrollees.”
- The Pennsylvania Religious Freedom Restoration Act specifically provides that “Nothing in this Act shall be construed to require a religiously affiliated health care facility to provide, allow, participate in or refer for health care services which are contrary to the religious beliefs or practices of the facility, provided that the facility shall provide notice to its patients of its policies regarding those health care services.”
Participation in Research Harmful to Human Life
- Pennsylvania currently provides no protection for the rights of healthcare providers who conscientiously object to participation in immoral medical research.