The Pennsylvania Women’s Health Caucus is a bipartisan, bicameral caucus of legislators partnering with advocacy groups to advance legislation and policies that promote equity and protect the health and wellbeing of women, gender expansive people, and families in Pennsylvania. As a caucus, we recognize the intersectionality of social issues that support physical and mental health. We are committed to closing existing disparities and removing barriers Pennsylvanians of all backgrounds face when seeking healthcare and systems of support. Integral to our mission is the belief that all Pennsylvanians have the right to make private, personal medical decisions.
The Women’s Health Caucus is committed to preserving access to abortion in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. We believe that with the overturning of Roe v. Wade and extreme abortion bans taking effect all over the country, it is more important than ever to protect Pennsylvanians’ ability to make their own health care decisions.
Pennsylvania is no stranger to anti-abortion bills being pushed in Harrisburg. Anti-abortion lawmakers have repeatedly sought to roll back abortion rights in the commonwealth throughout much of the past decade. In the aftermath of the Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization U.S. Supreme Court decision, Republicans in Harrisburg took the most aggressive tact yet and advanced a Constitutional Amendment question that, if approved by the voters, would remove the right to an abortion from the Pennsylvania constitution and pave the way for an extreme abortion ban.
Recent election results make the path forward much more difficult for anti-abortion lawmakers, but we cannot afford to lapse into a false sense of comfort. As we have seen in Pennsylvania time and time again, the anti-abortion movement is not going to abandon its long-sought goal of implementing an extreme abortion ban in Pennsylvania. We need to be ready to fight back and continue to talk about the importance of reproductive freedom.
Not only is our caucus dedicated to protecting your right to make private medical decisions, but we also are committed to protecting abortion providers from prosecution, expanding access to reproductive health care, and removing barriers to abortion that have nothing to do with safety or best medical practices. In the upcoming session, our members will continue to protect your reproductive freedom, including access to fertility treatments and contraception.
Ending the Maternal Mortality Crisis
Ending maternal mortality and improving maternal health outcomes in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania is a central mission of the Women’s Health Caucus. For far too long, the maternal mortality crisis has not been treated with the urgency it requires in Pennsylvania or throughout the country.
The U.S. has a shameful and tragic maternal mortality record. CDC data shows that in 2020, the U.S. averaged 23.8 deaths per 100,000 births, which is nearly three times higher than the next poorest-performing industrialized nation. Black women bear the brunt of maternal deaths in the U.S. and are three times more likely to die during or after childbirth than white women. Maternal mortality rates are trending in the wrong direction and it’s getting worse each year. From 2018 to 2020, maternal mortality rates increased in the U.S. by 6.4 deaths per 100,000 births. Additionally, in 2020 alone, maternal mortality among Latinas increased by a shocking 44%.
Pennsylvania is no outlier. Over a five-year period, maternal mortality increased in the commonwealth by 21%. During the same time, Black women accounted for 23% of deaths despite only accounting for 14% of births.
As the maternal mortality crisis rages, our caucus believes we must act to implement sound public health policy that ensures all Pennsylvanians have equal access to all forms of reproductive health care. This cannot be achieved without addressing the racial disparities that exist within our health care system, eliminating maternity care deserts, and ensuring accurate information about contraception and reproductive health care is available to all.
Health Care Access & Equity
An individual’s race, zip code, or economic status shouldn’t determine the quality of care they receive. The Women’s Health Caucus believes that all Pennsylvanians should be able to access the health care services they need to live healthy, prosperous lives. Inadequate health care coverage, lack of access to reliable transportation, care deserts, and patient language barriers are just a few examples of what thousands of Pennsylvanians must overcome each day.
In this legislative session, the Women’s Health Caucus is rededicating itself to addressing the factors that lead to inequality within our health care system. We believe that by working in coordination with our vast network of partner organizations and engaging with stakeholders across the commonwealth, we can enact policies at the state level that allow our health care system to meet the needs of every community in Pennsylvania.
The Women’s Health Caucus recognizes that economic stability is essential for a healthy life. Too many Pennsylvanians are held back by the price of essentials like housing and child care, as well as low pay and inadequate workplace benefits. These constraints prevent people from pursuing higher education, starting families, and setting big goals for themselves.
These issues tend to disproportionately impact women. In Pennsylvania, women can expect to earn on average $11,396 less than men per year. Additionally, the impact of Pennsylvania’s embarrassingly low minimum wage hits women, particularly Black and Latina women, the hardest.
The soaring costs of childcare have kept women out of the workforce and prevented women from pursuing higher education or chasing dreams of starting small businesses. This phenomenon was a problem before the COVID-19 Pandemic and has only hastened since. Likewise, the ever-increasing price of housing is preventing Pennsylvanians from starting families and achieving true economic security.
The Women’s Health Caucus aspires to transform Pennsylvania into a place where all 13 million citizens of this commonwealth are given a chance to thrive. We believe Pennsylvania can become a model for other states follow by enacting bold, progressive policies that allow people to achieve economic empowerment and reach their full potential.
Justice & Inclusion
While we may call ourselves the Women’s Health Caucus, we know that our values are in line with the values of Pennsylvanians of all genders, races, religions, and sexual orientations. We also know that if we are to succeed in moving our agenda for Pennsylvania forwards, we will need as broad a coalition as possible.
That’s why we welcome all Pennsylvanians to join us in our efforts to achieve our policy goals. However, our goals cannot be realized without defeating all forms of racism, homophobia, and discrimination. Our members do not believe that progress should be made at the expense of others. That’s why this session, we will lend our support to legislation that addresses the inequities in Pennsylvania and will vehemently oppose any legislation brought before either chamber that promotes hatred and discrimination towards historically marginalized communities.