Today is a difficult day in our lives of service, advocacy, and support for survivors and for our communities. We recognize that staff, volunteers, and clients at rape crisis centers will need some time and space to process the vast implications of today’s Supreme Court decision to overturn Roe v. Wade and end federal protections of abortion rights.
We want to affirm to everyone affiliated with partnering centers and working to end sexual violence that PCAR and Pennsylvania’s rape crisis centers strongly object to today’s ruling. We stand firmly behind every person’s right to make decisions about their own body and lives; this is a fundamental tenet of our movement. PCAR and partnering centers oppose any actions—legislatively or otherwise—that limit a person’s right to access reproductive healthcare services, including abortion care. PCAR has released a public statement on today’s decision, and will be authoring more comprehensive communications in the days ahead.
We want to remind you that PCAR and partnering centers have a PASAC meeting this coming Friday, July 1st, where we can review and discuss this decision in more detail.
We also want to remind you that abortion is still legal in the state of Pennsylvania, as is counseling an individual on all of their reproductive options and helping them to obtain abortion services, if that is their decision.
We understand that you may be asked to answer questions about the impacts of this case and the stances of rape crisis centers in Pennsylvania. Please see our attached talking points for help with common questions.
We encourage all staff at partnering centers to engage in meaningful self-care in the days, weeks, and months ahead. Our work can be difficult no matter the political or social climate; decisions like this make our advocacy even more demanding, but also infinitely more necessary. We will all need to care for ourselves so that we can continue to care for others.
Chief Executive Officer
Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape & National Sexual Violence Resource Center
Please take a look at the important information and key points our team has gathered:
What to know:
- Republican-appointed Supreme Court Justices Samuel Alito, Clarence Thomas, Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett voted to overrule Roe v. Wade (1973) and consequently Planned Parenthood of Southwestern Pennsylvania v. Casey (1992), cases that guaranteed federal constitutional protections of abortion rights. This decision ends federal protections of abortion rights and allows each state to decide whether to restrict or ban abortion.
- The decision was in the case of Thomas E. Dobbs, State Health Officer of the Mississippi Department of Health et all Petitioners vs. Jackson Women’s Health Organization. The court ruled in favor of Mississippi, which had passed a law banning most abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy. This decision upholds Mississippi’s ban; because it also overturns Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood of Southwestern Pennsylvania v. Casey, the ruling will further enable much more restrictive state bans and prohibitions of abortion.
- Thirteen states have passed ‘trigger laws’ or abortion bans went into effect immediately after Roe v. Wade was overturned. Pennsylvania does not currently have a trigger law. Other states have laws in place protecting reproductive rights. This variance will create another economic and racial inequity as people with financial means and flexible schedules will be able to travel to receive legal abortion services in other states while those without the same resources will be forced to continue their pregnancies or seek illegal and likely dangerous abortion services in their communities.
- Some inequality may persist among residents of different states, regardless of economic and racial privilege. Some states, like Missouri, have considered abortion travel bans. These laws would make it a punishable crime to assist pregnant people who are traveling to other states to seek a legal abortion. In the wake of Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood of Southwestern Pennsylvania v. Casey being overturned, some states are likely to pass abortion travel bans. Some pregnant people in these states with means and opportunity may still pursue an abortion by traveling across state lines; however, this action will now be considered a punishable crime. For some pregnant people and those who assist them, this could have high risks and potentially severe consequences.
- Abortion is still legal in the state of Pennsylvania, as is counseling an individual on all of their reproductive options and helping them to obtain abortion services, if that is their decision.
- [Insert Center] strongly opposes any actions—legislatively or otherwise—that limit a person’s right to access a full range of reproductive healthcare services, including abortion care.
- We believe consent and bodily autonomy are fundamental rights no person, law or government should violate. These beliefs are integral to our mission and work.
- [Insert center] and the Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape stand firmly behind choice and the full range of reproductive healthcare options for all people, including abortion care.
- Reproductive coercion, forced pregnancies, forced abortions, and rape resulting in pregnancy are all risk factors that undermine victims’ physical and psychological safety and well-being. We cannot support laws that force victims to continue pregnancies and undergo childbirth against their will when we know this will likely be retraumatizing, dangerous or an impediment to their healing.
- Options, choices, and empowerment help to restore a victim’s sense of control and safety after an assault. We do not support any actions that limit those options and allow the government to dictate what choices a person can make about their personal lives and bodies.
- Three million women experience rape-related pregnancy over their lifetime in the United States, according the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Re-victimizing these survivors by denying their bodily autonomy after an assault is morally reprehensible.
- Carrying a pregnancy to term is not a safe option for all people—due to intimate partner violence, which can escalate during pregnancy; health disparities related to racial and economic inequalities; a person’s medical history or complications that elevate their risk for maternal morbidity; or other reasons. People must be allowed to make the healthcare decisions that are right for their bodies and their lives.
- Reproductive choice must not be limited to victims of sexual violence and intimate partner violence. These forms of abuse are among the most under-reported crimes in the United States. Survivors should never be forced to reveal their status in order to obtain medical care. Restricting their private healthcare decisions pending the trauma of disclosure is coercive and inappropriate. These choices should be made freely between a patient and medical provider, in the context of the patient’s health, safety, and family dynamics, not based on fear of criminal repercussions.