Pennsylvania Equal Rights Amendment Provides Win for Abortion Access

On Monday, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court released an opinion on abortion rights following a long legal battle in Allegheny Reproductive Health Center et al. v. PA Department of Human Services et al. The case, litigated by the Women’s Law Project under the leadership of Susan Frietsche, centered around the state statute that bans Pennsylvania’s Medicaid program from covering abortion services.  

The majority opinion, some 219 pages, details arguments why the Medicaid coverage ban for abortion violates the Pennsylvania Equal Rights Amendment as well as the equal protection provisions of the Pennsylvania Constitution. The ERA was approved by voters in Pennsylvania in 1971 and this case proves how a state ERA can play an influential role in the fight for reproductive justice. The majority opinion clearly outlines how the Medicaid coverage ban is discriminatory on the basis of sex. 

Frietsche, the co-executive director of the Women’s Law Project, argued the case before the Supreme Court. She stated in response to the decision, “we are still determining the next steps, but we are confident the Medicaid abortion ban will be consigned to the scrapheap of history very soon.” The Women’s Law Project has been fighting for this victory since the 1970s. 

“The federal ERA, which has been ratified by the necessary 38 states, would also aid in protecting reproductive healthcare access for the women of the United States,” says Eleanor Smeal, former President of PA NOW and current President of the Feminist Majority Foundation. “This is a major victory for Pennsylvania women and shows the potential for securing reproductive healthcare access in states that have added ERAs to their constitutions.”

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