Lawmakers seek protections for PA abortion care providers, out-of-state patients

HARRISBURG, July 11 – Members of the General Assembly’s Women’s Health Caucus today asked Gov. Tom Wolf to take executive action to protect Pennsylvania health care providers who treat out-of-state patients seeking abortion care.

According to WHC co-chairs Sens. Amanda Cappelletti and Judy Schwank and Reps. Morgan Cephas and Mary Jo Daley, following the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to overturn the federal constitutional right to abortion in the U.S., some states that have already criminalized abortion or are moving legislation to do so are also looking to force their extremist beliefs across their boundaries and prevent abortions in states where abortion care remains safe, legal and accessible.

Pennsylvania is now one of the top five places people will travel for safe and legal abortion care. WHC members want to ensure that health care professionals who provide legal abortion care and the patients who receive this care are safe from potential disciplinary, legal or criminal action from these states.

In a letter to Wolf, the caucus requested he take the following immediate actions to protect Pennsylvania health care providers from other states’ laws attempting to bully them and limit their ability to provide legal health care:

  • Prohibit executive departments and agencies from assisting another state’s investigation

into a person or entity for receiving or delivering reproductive health services that are legal

in Pennsylvania.

  • Direct the secretary of State to work with the boards of professional licensure, to the extent

their independence can be maintained, to protect Pennsylvania providers who deliver

reproductive health care services from losing their professional licenses or receiving other

professional discipline based on out-of-state charges so long as the services would have

been lawful and consistent with standards for good professional practice in Pennsylvania.

  • Decline to cooperate with extradition requests from other states pursuing criminal charges

against individuals who received, assisted with, or performed legal reproductive health services

in Pennsylvania.

“We thank Governor Wolf for his leadership on behalf of women and families and birthing people across the commonwealth and his steadfast efforts to protect and preserve the right to bodily autonomy and the choice of if and when to have a child,” Cephas said. “It’s important to extend those protections to the health care providers who work to ensure this choice through an executive order.”

“We want to make it clear as can be that abortion is still legal in Pennsylvania and we will not allow neighboring states to dictate or intimidate providers in the commonwealth,” Schwank said. “It's unthinkable that a medical professional could be charged with a crime or face jail time for providing an individual with a safe medical procedure. We need to follow the lead of other states and afford protection to Pennsylvania abortion providers who are operating in accordance with state law.”

“It is imperative that we do everything in our power to protect abortion providers from being prosecuted for providing reproductive health care,” Cappelletti said. “As the anti-abortion movement seeks to criminalize health care providers, we must be proactive in ensuring Pennsylvania’s health care providers do not come under legal threat by other states.”

“As the majority party in Harrisburg continues to circumvent the governor with constitutional amendments to remove and restrict rights for Pennsylvanians, it is more important than ever that Governor Wolf uses the tools he has to protect rights and combat these extremist efforts to ban abortion,” Daley said. “Only by working together can we counter these attacks and protect the rights of our citizens.”

Governors in Massachusetts, Minnesota and New Mexico have signed similar executive orders to protect providers who serve out-of-state citizens.

The caucus’ letter to Wolf can be found here.