Pa. abortion rights advocates urge residents to ‘stay grounded,’ donate in light of Roe draft opinion

Abortion will remain legal in Pennsylvania, unlike at least 26 states that are certain or likely to ban abortion immediately after Roe v. Wade is overturned.

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Hundreds of people protest outside City Hall in support of abortion rights

Philadelphians rallied for abortion rights outside City Hall on May 3, 2022, in the wake of a leaked draft U.S. Supreme Court opinion over Roe v. Wade. (Kimberly Paynter/WHYY)

The U.S. Supreme Court is poised to strike down Roe v. Wade, which protects the right to an abortion.

Abortion will remain legal in Pennsylvania, unlike at least 26 states that are certain or likely to immediately ban abortion if Roe v. Wade is overturned, according to a report from the Guttmacher Institute research organization.

The state’s reproductive rights advocates are devastated by the news of the leaked draft of the Supreme Court opinion.

The Abortion Liberation Fund of Pennsylvania (ALF-PA) called abortion restrictions “white supremacy in action” in a statement released today.

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But Elicia Gonzales, executive director of ALF-PA, said she still wants Pennsylvanians to stay grounded while abortion remains legal in the state.

“We take care of us. The courts will not save us,” Gonzales said. “We are the support that we need.”

“We know that abortions have happened in community, by community, and for community since the beginning of time. And so we know that our community is going to continue to come through to ensure that people can get access to an abortion.”

Gonzales’ main directive to Pennsylvanians is to donate to local abortion funds, like ALF-PA, because they provide the most immediate support for patients seeking abortion care.

“We literally help people pay for their abortion care today,” Gonzales said. “Voting and fighting against current legislation will not help out communities get the care they need right now.”

Pennsylvania is not a “trigger ban” state, meaning it is not one of the states that are definitely or likely going to ban abortion immediately after the overturn.

That means Pennsylvania is a “receiving state,” and could see a huge influx of people traveling from nearby states for abortion care. According to the Guttmacher Institute, there would be a 1,169% increase in people whose nearest clinic that performs abortions would be in Pennsylvania if it is banned in neighboring states.

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That concerns Gonzales, who said ALF already can’t fund everyone in their catchment area that is in need of funds for abortion care.

“While we embrace people coming here with open arms, we’re incredibly nervous because we already are not meeting the need,” she said. “Basically, we estimated just under 7,000 people in our catchment area alone are estimated to need our services. And last year we were able to fund just about 3,200 people. So we’re not even meeting half of the estimated need.”

Planned Parenthood Keystone CEO and President Melissa Reed said in reaction to yesterday’s news, “Our deepest fears are coming true. We’re really at a crisis moment for abortion access.”

Reed said she’s worried that a Roe v. Wade overturn could affect the protection of other rights, beyond abortion.

“The ability for people to get contraception, the ability for people to get abortion, to have same-sex marriage to have intimacy with same-sex partners … those Supreme Court decisions, and even marriage, have been grounded in what they call an unenumerated right to privacy in the Constitution,” said Reed.

Reed said it’s important to note the people who will be disproportionately impacted by these decisions: “Black, Latino, Indigenous, people of color … as well as rural and low-income communities.”

Reed estimates that Planned Parenthood Keystone will be serving an additional 8,500 patients from neighboring states who will come to Pennsylvania to seek access to abortion.

But, she said, they’ve spent many months preparing for this moment.

“We have expanded abortion access availability in Pennsylvania through telemedicine, through direct-to-patient medical abortion, where we can mail medical abortion directly to a Pennsylvanian’s home,” Reed said. “We have added abortion clinics in our service area, and we are working with other abortion providers and Planned Parenthoods across the nation to make sure that we can help patients navigate access to the care they need.”

She also pointed to Planned Parenthood’s “Fund for Choice,” which helps people cover the cost of the procedure, travel, child care, “whatever they need to make sure that there is not a financial barrier for folks getting care.”

On the ground

Abortion rights supporters across the country and in the Philadelphia region took to the streets on Tuesday to protest in response to the Roe draft leak.

In Doylestown, Bucks County, community members rallied in front of City Hall starting from 4 p.m. Tuesday.

Erin Kershaw, a Doylestown resident and local homebirth midwife, helped organize the event with her daughter.

She said she just wants to bring attention to the issue, “because this is unfortunately a very bad history in the making.”

“It’s an injustice. It’s clearly an inappropriate religious agenda,” Kershaw said.

In Philadelphia, hundreds of people met at the Courthouse and marched down Market Street. They landed in front of City Hall, where thousands of people gathered to rally.

While most were not surprised by the news, many expressed feelings of disappointment, anger, and sadness caused by the leaked news. An overarching sentiment from protestors that WHYY spoke to: Access to abortion shouldn’t be a political issue.

“This shouldn’t be a political volleying issue. Supreme Court justices shouldn’t be playing politics with our bodily autonomy,” said Portia Scott, of Philadelphia.

Philadelphians rallied for abortion rights outside City Hall on May 3, 2022, after a draft of an opinion by the U.S. Supreme Court on Roe v. Wade was leaked. (Kimberly Paynter/WHYY)

“This feels like an inevitable culmination of events. At the same time, I feel really terrified and shocked. And I know that this will hurt only the most marginalized communities,” said Anjie Yang, 26, also of Philadelphia.

But, she added, she does have some hope. “I feel that our greatest power is in coming together,” Yang said.

Kate Doyle was at the rally with other members of Rutgers Camden If/When/How Lawyering for Reproductive Justice. Doyle said the group is focused on informing people of their legal rights around self-managed medication abortion.

Kate Doyle, president of If/When/How, a Rutgers-Camden law organization for reproductive justice, rallied with about a thousand others for abortion rights outside City Hall in Philadelphia on May 3, 2022. (Kimberly Paynter/WHYY)

“Letting people know that abortion is not going to become a back alley, coat-hanger sort of thing, and what they can do in terms of their legal rights,” Doyle said.

She pointed to the group’s Repro Legal Defense Fund, which raises bail and defense dollars for people who are criminalized for managing their abortion care at home.

Kendall Bedford, a graduate student at the University of Pennsylvania, said this decision feels like the “dismantling of our political system.”

Kendall Bedford holds up a fist in the air while holding a protest sign that says ''Nonpartisan my a**''
Kendall Bedford, a UPenn student, rallied with about a thousand others for abortion rights outside City Hall in Philadelphia on May 3, 2022. (Kimberly Paynter/WHYY)

“This is supposed to be a nonpartisan court, and they have just demonstrated today that it is a political court,” Bedford said. “So, if we can’t have faith in something like that, what can we have faith in this country?”

Speakers for the Philadelphia Socialist Alternative, the group that organized the protest, led the crowd with chants and sparked cheers that could be heard blocks away from City Hall.

“Whose bodies are [these]?” the speaker asked. “Mine!”  the crowd chanted back.

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