As of last week, the Philadelphia Board of Health has avowed it will firmly stand behind the right to comprehensive reproductive health and abortion care.
The proclamation came in the form of a resolution adopted last week calling on the federal government, Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett, and the state’s General Assembly to uphold public funding for reproductive health care and reinstate insurance coverage for abortion care for all women regardless of income level and insurance type. Specifically, the resolution states:
“Be it therefore resolved, that the Board of Health of the Philadelphia Department of Public Health calls upon President Obama, the US Congress, Governor Corbett, and the Pennsylvania General Assembly to support public funding for comprehensive family planning services; to reinstate coverage for abortion services for women enrolled in public insurance programs, including women enrolled in Medicaid and Medicare, women in the military, federal employees, Native American Women, women in federal prison, women in the Peace Corps, and women who live in the District of Columbia; and to ensure that the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania does not withhold insurance coverage for abortion for women purchasing plans on a state insurance exchange.”
With this resolution, Philadelphia becomes the third city to stand behind women’s access to reproductive health care. It comes on the heels of similar resolutions adopted by the New York City Council Committee and the Travis County Commissioners Court in Austin, Texas in late January.
“If state and federal government were to provide comprehensive pregnancy-related coverage then it would be good for women and families of Philadelphia,” says Dr. Susan Schewel, executive director of Women’s Medical Fund (WMF) and Board of Health member. “The lack of pregnancy-related coverage is a public health issue and that’s what the Board of Health deals with. We know that when women can’t control their fertility and make their own decision about how many children they want to have and when and if they want to have them, then there are public health consequences for that, for women and for their children.”
A draft of the resolution was first brought to the Board of Health by Dr. Schewel a couple of months ago after gaining interest through her work with WMF. Initially, Dr. Schewel’s pledge only included the issue of abortion coverage but, she says, “They were so outraged about threats to public family planning services that they wanted to expand to include that issue.”