Fiedler hosts rally for abortion rights on Capitol steps

HARRISBURG, Oct. 24 – Parents, union members, advocates and elected officials from across the Commonwealth gathered in Harrisburg today to rally for abortion rights. 

The event, called “Abortion Freedom for All,” drew hundreds of people to the Capitol steps just as the General Assembly was about to reconvene for session. 

The rally was organized by state Rep. Elizabeth Fiedler, D-Phila., Lancaster Stands Up, Planned Parenthood, PA Stands Up, Working Families Party, DSA, Make the Road, We The People and more groups from across the state. 

Fiedler hosted the event. She said the goal of the event was to join forces and show up in big numbers and make clear that the people of Pennsylvania do not want the General Assembly to tear away their rights. 

“For 50 years Roe v. Wade was the law of the land,” Fiedler said. “Women like me grew up knowing that my right to control what happened in my body was enshrined in federal law. Now that’s uncertain. We are here today because we believe that each of us should have the freedom to decide what’s best for our families, for ourselves, for our bodies.”

"As a Black obstetrician and gynecologist, I feel unquieted by the attack on reproductive rights and reproductive justice,” said Dr. Sharee Livingston, Lancaster area OB/GYN and board member of the advocacy group Patients R Waiting. “Abortion is essential health care, it is safe, and barriers to abortion widen health disparities gaps that exist among people of color."

In July, in a series of party-line votes, Republicans advanced an amendment to the state constitution that would declare there is no state constitutional right to abortion. Because the measure would need to be approved again in the next legislative session, speakers emphasized that the freedom to decide whether, when and how to have a family now rests in the hands of state lawmakers.

“We stand with providers, patients, partners and legislative allies in support of abortion access,” said Lindsey Mauldin, vice president of policy and advocacy at Planned Parenthood of Southeastern PA. “We applaud efforts and policies aimed at protecting and expanding this access, including those most recently introduced by Representatives Fiedler and Hill-Evans.”

The group stressed that abortion care is an issue for everyone: for working parents, for union members and for their community. If abortion becomes harder or impossible to obtain in Pennsylvania due to decision made by state lawmakers, they stressed that the list of people harmed will be lengthy, including victims of sexual assault, women who want to become mothers but whose pregnancies are not viable, families doing IVF to conceive, and any person who gets pregnant but does not want to carry and birth a baby. 

“Everyone deserves the freedom to decide whether, when and how to have a family -- and as a lawmaker and as a person who has been pregnant — I can confidently say that is not a choice legislators should be making for us,” Fiedler said.

According to a poll from NBC News, 86% of Americans support abortion as the result of rape or incest. Additionally, 91% support abortion if the pregnant woman’s health is endangered.

"Parents like myself are here to fight for what's right. The freedom to make decisions about our own bodies belongs to us, not to politicians,” said Suzy Wurtz, an organizer with Lancaster Stands Up. “For far too long, lawmakers have attacked this fundamental right. The freedom to decide whether, when and how to have a family belongs to us, and today, we’re calling on our state legislators to stand with us in support of our freedom." 

"Long before Roe v. Wade fell, abortion was out of reach for thousands of us across the state of Pennsylvania, thanks to barriers like a Medicaid coverage ban, a scarcity of clinics, and a culture of stigma and misinformation,” said Debasri Ghosh from National Network of Abortion Funds. “Access to abortion should never be determined by your race, the state you live in, the size of your bank account, your documentation status or your gender identity. This moment demands that we all raise our voices and work together for a future in which abortion is affordable, available and identity affirming for everyone that wants or needs one."

“As a devoted Catholic, I know that abortion is taboo in immigrant and Latinx communities, but the truth is that banning abortion isn’t really about protecting anyone, it’s about control,” said Francisca Mendez, member leader of Make the Road PA. “If politicians were really ‘pro-life’ they would have protected the children who died in ICE custody, they would have stopped the forced sterilization of immigrant women in detention centers, and they would never have let a child cough up blood for days in the Berks Detention Center.”

“Summer may be over, but women across Pennsylvania have not forgotten that our rights were stripped away in June,” said House Democratic Leader Joanna McClinton, D-Phila./Delaware. “Time has passed but the risk for women has not. And we will not forget - we will mobilize, and we will fight until our bodily autonomy is secure.”

“My faith tells me the choice to have an abortion is a holy one and, like all choices we make about our bodies, should only belong to the pregnant person,” the Rev. Abbey Tennis said. “It’s essential that our laws honor each of our rights of autonomy over our bodies, and our culture provides for life saving abortion healthcare for those who need it!”

In addition to safe, accessible abortion care, the speakers called for an end to the funding of Crisis Pregnancy Centers, and an increase in funding and accessibility for prenatal care, postnatal care, and childcare across the state.