Pa. Supreme Court rules state Constitution provides fundamental right to reproductive autonomy – Pennsylvania Capital-Star

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court issued a decision Monday in a challenge to the state ban on publicly funded abortions, finding that “the right to reproductive autonomy, like other privacy rights, is fundamental.”

The ruling overturns a 1985 decision that upheld the Pennsylvania Abortion Control Act’s ban on Medicaid-funded abortions except in cases of rape or incest. The case was the subject of intense focus during last November’s election to fill a vacant seat on the state high court, with reproductive rights advocates pushing to solidify Democrats’ majority.

In a complex 219-page lead opinion for the court, Justice Christine Donohue found the exclusion of coverage for abortions discriminates against women who chose to exercise their fundamental right to reproductive autonomy and violates the Pennsylvania Constitution’s protection against discrimination by the government.

In order to justify the exclusion, the state must show that it has a compelling government interest and that it is using the least restrictive means available to advance that interest, Donohue said. 

“The government does not bear a constitutional obligation to provide medical care to the indigent, nor is the government required to financially support the exercise of a fundamental right, including a woman’s exercise of her right to reproductive autonomy,” Donohue wrote.

“However, once the government chooses to provide medical care for the indigent, including necessary care attendant to pregnancy for those women exercising their right to reproductive autonomy who decide to carry a pregnancy to term, the government is obligated to maintain neutrality so as not to intrude upon the constitutional right to full reproductive autonomy, which includes the right to terminate a pregnancy,” the opinion reads.

U.S. Rep. Summer Lee (D-Pa. 12th District) said the decision would save the lives of women by allowing the state Medicaid program to pay for abortion care. 

“The Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruling is a huge win for reproductive justice setting the stage to overturn decades of racist, classist policy that banned Medicaid recipients from accessing the care they needed — policy that directly contributed to Pittsburgh’s maternal mortality crisis where Black women are more likely to die during pregnancy than 97% of U.S. cities,” Lee said in a statement. 

The ruling sends the case back to Commonwealth Court with instructions for the lower court to find whether the state has a compelling interest in restricting the right to reproductive autonomy and whether the exclusion for abortion care is the least restrictive way to achieve that interest.

The Supreme Court also found Commonwealth Court erred in granting conservative lawmakers the right to intervene in the case. The lower court allowed House Minority Leader Bryan Cutler (R-Lancaster), former Senate President Pro Tempore Jake Corman (R-Centre) and the House Republican Caucus to defend the Abortion Control Act’s exclusion.

The underlying lawsuit was filed by the Allegheny Reproductive Health Center, Allentown Women’s Center, Delaware County Women’s Center, Planned Parenthood Keystone and the organization’s southeastern and western Pennsylvania chapters.

This story will be updated.



Pa. Supreme Court majority opinion in Medicaid abortion coverage case by PennCapitalStar on Scribd

Originally published at,by Peter Hall

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