Philly Passes Resolution Calling for Reproductive Healthcare Funding
Last night, Philadelphia became the third U.S. city to pass a resolution calling for federal and state funding of reproductive healthcare services, including abortion.
From the resolution: “Resolution calling upon President Obama, the US Congress, Governor Corbett, and the Pennsylvania General Assembly to maintain existing public funding for comprehensive reproductive health care and reinstate insurance coverage for abortion care for every woman who needs it, regardless of the source of her insurance.” (The full text of the resolution is below.)
The atmosphere was celebratory at last night’s city Board of Health meeting, when the resolution was signed before a small crowd of spectators and supporters.
“I hope we will look back twenty years from tonight and say we were at the very beginning of restoring public funds on abortion,” said Dr. Susan Schewel, executive director of the Women’s Medical Fund and member of the Board of Health.
Though abortion has been legal for 40 years, a patchwork of federal restrictions and state regulations have created a de facto system whereby many poor and working-class women can’t afford access. The practical effect is that abortion is available via a two-tiered system of access that mimics the days before Roe V. Wade, when middle-class women who lived in states where abortion was illegal could obtain one by simply traveling to a state where it was legal.
Locally, Women’s Medical Fund fills some of the gap by providing direct financial assistance to low-income women in need of an abortion. To give context to the significance of the Board’s resolution, Dr. Schewel reviewed the requests for assistance fielded by her office yesterday: The WMF hotline received 14 requests for assistance in four hours. WMF can provide financial support to seven. The average income of the women who requested assistance is $618 per month.
“They were told they’d need $350–450 for an abortion,” said Dr. Schewel. “As you can imagine, that’s a fortune to them.”
Dr. Marla Gold, another member of the Board of Health, emphasized that the resolution calls for funding for the full-spectrum of reproductive healthcare services, not just abortion.
According to Philadelphia Health Commissioner Dr. Don Schwarz, the inspiration for the resolution stems directly from “the health impact pyramid,” a framework for public health action advocated by the Centers for Disease Control.
From the CDC: “At the base of this pyramid, indicating interventions with the greatest potential impact, are efforts to address socioeconomic determinants of health.”
“It struck me,” said Dr. Schwarz, “that demographically, internationally, one of the most important factors of the socioeconomic status of women in society is the ability to control fertility.”
The resolution passed unanimously. New York City and Austin, Texas already passed similar resolutions.
The Board of Health will provide more details at a press conference today at 3PM.
Full text of resolution:
Resolution of the Board of Health
Coverage for Comprehensive Reproductive Health Care
February 14, 2013
Resolution calling upon President Obama, the US Congress, Governor Corbett, and the Pennsylvania General Assembly to maintain existing public funding for comprehensive reproductive health care and reinstate insurance coverage for abortion care for every woman who needs it, regardless of the source of her insurance.
1. Whereas, women need access to a range of safe, affordable reproductive health care services throughout life, including cancer and sexually transmitted infection screenings, contraceptive services, abortion care, prenatal care, and labor and delivery services;
2. Whereas, all women, regardless of income, need insurance coverage to access these services, so that they can seek care from licensed, quality health care providers, and so that economic barriers do not play a role in critical health care decisions;
3. Whereas, the federal government recognizes that health care is essential to protect an individual’s ability to fully participate in their family, community, and society. To support people in achieving that goal, the government partially or fully subsidizes health insurance and health care services for individuals who meet certain eligibility criteria;
4. Whereas, some lawmakers in Congress and state legislatures oppose coverage for comprehensive reproductive health care and have therefore moved to restrict or decrease publicly subsidized family planning funding to make it unaffordable or inaccessible;
5. Whereas, low-income women – 8,744,744 women nationally[i] and 374,241 women in Pennsylvania[ii] – qualify for publicly subsidized family planning services and are therefore actually or potentially subject to these inequitable policies;
6. Whereas, women enrolled in Medicaid are denied coverage for comprehensive pregnancy-related care that includes abortion care, because of unnecessary and unfair bans on such coverage imposed by federal and state lawmakers;
7. Whereas, denying access to comprehensive pregnancy-related care to the more than 87,000 Philadelphia women of reproductive age utilizing public insurance[iii] discriminates against them and their families;
8. Whereas, women who lack insurance coverage or publically subsidized services have increased numbers of unintended pregnancy and childbearing[iv].
9. Whereas, when a woman cannot afford to end a pregnancy when she needs to, due to lack of coverage for abortion, the impact on her and her family can be far reaching, including endangering her health due to serious medical conditions related to pregnancy;
10. Whereas, unintended childbearing is associated with many negative consequences such as delayed prenatal care, maternal depression, increased risk of physical violence during pregnancy, decreased likelihood of breastfeeding, low birth weight, decreased mental and physical health during childhood, and lower education attainment for the child[v],[vi],[vii];
11. Whereas, childbearing in adolescence is correlated with failure to complete a high school education. This has long-term consequences for the economic and social stability, and therefore the health status, of these teens and their children. In Philadelphia, fully two thirds of girls who become mothers while in high school do not graduate.[i]
Be it therefore resolved, that the Board of Health of the Philadelphia Department of Public Health calls upon President Obama, the US Congress, Governor Corbett, and the Pennsylvania General Assembly to support public funding for comprehensive family planning services; to reinstate coverage for abortion services for women enrolled in public insurance programs, including women enrolled in Medicaid and Medicare, women in the military, federal employees, Native American Women, women in federal prison, women in the Peace Corps, and women who live in the District of Columbia; and to ensure that the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania does not withhold insurance coverage for abortion for women purchasing plans on a state insurance exchange.