The Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape and the network of rape crisis centers we represent stand firmly behind choice and the full range of reproductive healthcare options for all people, including birth control, prevention of sexually transmitted diseases, and abortion.
We oppose any effort—including the recently leaked pending decision of the United States Supreme Court—that would force any individual to carry a pregnancy to term against their will.
PCAR believes in every person’s right to make decisions about their own body and lives. Since 1975, our Coalition has worked to uphold consent, the right to privacy, and bodily autonomy as fundamental rights no person, law, or government should violate.
On Monday, May 2nd, Politico published a leaked draft of a U.S. Supreme Court decision that would overrule Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood of Southwestern Pennsylvania v. Casey–cases that guaranteed federal constitutional protections of abortion rights. This decision would end federal protection of abortion rights and allow each state to decide whether to restrict or ban abortion. In the draft, Republican-appointed Justices Clarence Thomas, Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett voted with Justice Samuel Alito to overrule the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision, and, consequently, the 1992 Planned Parenthood of Southwestern Pennsylvania v. Casey decision. The court’s decision is not final until it is published, which could happen this summer. The ruling is in the case of Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, and would decide in favor of the plaintiff, Thomas E. Dobbs, State Health Officer of the Mississippi Department of Health, who is defending Mississippi’s current abortion ban, which takes effect after 15 weeks of pregnancy. This ban contains no exceptions for victims of rape or incest.
Thirteen states have passed ‘trigger laws’ or abortion bans that would go into effect the moment Roe v. Wade is overturned. Other states have laws in place protecting reproductive rights. Pennsylvania has several bills pending in the General Assembly that would restrict abortion access. This variance in reproductive freedom from state to state will worsen current economic and racial inequities, as people with financial means and flexible schedules will be able to travel to other states to access abortion care, while individuals without these resources will be unable to seek abortion services.
Furthermore, some states, like Missouri, have considered abortion restrictions that may make it a crime punishable by lawsuit to assist pregnant people who travel to other states to seek a legal abortion. Some pregnant people with means and opportunity may still choose to access a legal abortion in other states; however, this decision will have high risks and potentially severe consequences under these inhumane and over-reaching restrictions.
- An 11-year-old child who becomes pregnant after years of being molested by their parent
- An adult with cognitive disabilities who is raped by a caregiver and becomes pregnant as a result
- A college student who realizes they are pregnant because their partner removed the condom without their knowledge or consent
- A victim of intimate partner violence whose pregnancy escalates their abusive partner’s frequency and intensity of violence and rape against them; for many reasons, this pregnancy also makes it more difficult for the victim to leave
- A person who faces life or death risks if they carry a pregnancy to full term
- A trafficking victim who risks their life to end their own pregnancy with no medical assistance because abortion is illegal and their trafficker is threatening to kill them
These examples are not hypothetical to us. We work with victims like these every day. We provide assistance that is empowering and sometimes life-saving. Without access to abortion, there are victims that we will not be able to help in every way possible. There are survivors who will not heal.
Reproductive choice must not be limited to victims of sexual violence. Sexual abuse and assault are among the most under-reported and under-prosecuted crimes in the U.S. Survivors should never be forced to disclose their trauma in order to obtain medical care. Restricting their private healthcare decisions is coercive and dangerous. Pregnancy and childbirth can be life-threatening. This is especially true for Black people who continue to experience health disparities stemming from systemic racism and a historic lack of studies, research, medical training and practitioners that are reflective of the needs and realities of communities of color.
Forced pregnancy and childbirth is a violation of our human rights. Reproductive choices should be made freely and carefully between a patient and their medical provider, in the context of the patient’s health, safety, and family dynamics, not based on criminal repercussions. If Roe is reversed, this decision would be determined by state legislatures.
Furthermore, PCAR upholds and supports everyone’s right to make decisions about their bodies and healthcare options. This is a fundamental tenet of the movement to end sexual violence. No person should be forced to carry a pregnancy to term against their will and face potential physical, economic, and psychological dangers.
We know that being philosophically pro-choice is not enough; we must work to ensure that people have realistically available options, not just technically legal “choices”—especially people living in poverty and people of color. For too long, people of color and people with economic insecurity have been pragmatically or legally barred from access to healthcare, including abortion care. We recognize and honor Black and brown women and organizations for their leadership in the fight to protect reproductive options for all people. We all must join them. We all must do the work to protect, reinstate, and expand reproductive freedom.
We recognize that if SCOTUS overturns Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood of Southwestern Pennsylvania v. Casey, this will lead to immense pain, incomprehensible suffering, and irreparable harm for survivors, pregnant people, and any individual with the capacity to be affected by forced pregnancy. If SCOTUS rejects an individual’s right to liberty and privacy under the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, they also reject the reasoning of critical rulings, such as those pertaining to marriage equality (Obergefell v. Hodges), access to contraception (Griswold v. Connecticut), and inter-racial marriage (Loving v. Virginia). This means these decisions could be overruled, and these rights no longer protected. The government could pass harmful state and federal laws reinstating these forms of legal discrimination on the basis of sexuality and gender. This would be a horrifying step backward for our Commonwealth, our country, and our society.
PCAR opposes any actions—legislatively or otherwise—that limit a person’s right to access reproductive healthcare services, including abortion care.
We encourage everyone to take steps to protect the ruling of Roe v. Wade by:
- Writing an Op-ed for your local news outlets and sharing examples of how abortion care is critical to victims of sexual violence and all people in your community.
- Contacting your state and federal legislators and urging them to oppose any restrictions to abortion access and to author, sponsor, and support bills that would codify a person’s right to abortion in law.
- Getting out the Vote in the upcoming primaries and all elections to encourage the election of public officials that will represent your stance on reproductive justice and abortion access.
- Donating to agencies that work to help sexual assault survivors and community members understand and access the full range of reproductive healthcare options available to them, including abortion.
- Speaking with community members and organizations about the importance of abortion care and encouraging them to join you in any of these activities.
For nearly 50 years, the Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape has worked to end sexual violence and advocate for the rights and needs of victims of sexual assault. We partner with and represent a combined network of victim resource centers that help more than 30,000 survivors each year in all 67 Pennsylvania counties.