In an effort to ensure Pennsylvania remains a safe haven for people seeking abortion services, Democratic lawmakers have proposed a bill that would prohibit law enforcement and government entities from cooperating with another state’s abortion investigation.
State Democratic lawmakers have introduced legislation prohibiting cooperation with out-of-state criminal abortion investigations.
Sponsored by Reps. Carol Hill-Evans (D-York), Emily Kinkead (D-Allegheny), and Chris Rabb (D-Philadelphia), the bill would prohibit all law enforcement officers, state government departments and their employees, and local government entities and their employees from participating with investigations conducted by another state into abortions legally obtained in Pennsylvania.
The bill is in response to the expected influx of patients traveling to Pennsylvania to seek abortion care from states where abortions have been outlawed or severly restricted after the US Supreme Court’s deicison to overturn Roe v. Wade.
“It is bad enough that people have to travel hundreds of miles to receive medical care, but the thought that they may be harassed and charged with felonies, it’s outrageous,” Hill-Evans said. “It is not the duty of people on the state payroll to investigate personal health matters; Pennsylvania officials have no business harassing pregnant people on the taxpayer’s dime.”
In 2020, there were 32,123 abortions performed in Pennsylvania, according to a report from the state Department of Health, with out-of-state patients accounting for 2,144 of those abortions.
With the fall of Roe v. Wade, Planned Parenthood Keystone estimates that 8,500 out-of-state patients could flock to Pennsylvania to seek abortion care this year. In particular, Planned Parenthood expects many of them will arive from neighboring states like Ohio, which passed a ban on abortions after 6 weeks in 2019, and West Virginia, where abortion is now entirely illegal post-Roe, and anyone who provides abortion services may be imprisoned up to 10 years.
Since the end of June, staff at the Allegheny Reproductive Health Center in Pittsburgh have been answering 10x more phone calls and are helping 3x the number of patients, Dr. Sheila Ramgopal, OBGYN and CEO of the center, said. About 60% to 70% of current patients are from out of state, up from the center’s typical 30% rate.
The Democratic lawmakers behind the legislation want Pennsylvania to join other states, like New York and Connecticut, who also are working to offer protections to women seeking abortion care. With states discussing legislation and passing laws to criminalize abortion post-Roe, Rabb said criminalization efforts are an attack on bodily autonomy and on state sovereignty.
“Many states proposing to outlaw abortion are seeking to criminalize individuals who seek abortions – or assist others in seeking abortions – whether they do so in that state or any other,” Kinkead said. “Pennsylvania will not cooperate with these repulsive investigations. In fact, it is our right and our duty to refuse.”