Some newsworthy items got lost in late December. One was a forum on women’s health held on December 15th at WHYY. Over 100 people came out to talk about the new health care reform law and how it will impact women’s health in Pennsylvania. The event was hosted by Raising Women’s Voices of Southeastern Pennsylvania, a coalition of 25 organizations concerned with women’s health, led by Women’s Way.
Questions from the audience were wide ranging but the primary focus was on three issues: maternity care, family planning services, and protecting women’s access to abortion care in the new Pennsylvania health insurance exchange. From the event press release:
In September, 2010, State Senator Don White (R-11) introduced Senate Bill 1399, which would ban private insurance plans sold in Pennsylvania’s state exchange, created under health care reform, from covering even medically necessary abortion procedures. With an estimated 80% of private insurance plans currently covering abortion care, the forum’s host, Raising Women’s Voices of Southeastern Pennsylvania says that banning abortion coverage in the state exchange would leave women worse off than they were before health care reform began.
Let me also note that prenatal care is vitally important to the health of women and babies. As noted on the federal government's website on women's health: "Babies of mothers who do not get prenatal care are three times more likely to have a low birth weight and five times more likely to die than those born to mothers who do get care." The same site discusses the importance of preconception care, which can help prevent certain birth defects.
Here are some remarks from or about the forum:
Rebecca Foley, Director of Education & Advocacy Initiatives at WOMEN’S WAY: “While women gained many important benefits under the new health care reform law, they also lost critical reproductive health care benefits, and Pennsylvania women have the potential to lose even more. We need politicians to be working to protect and advance women’s health instead of denying Pennsylvania women access to fundamental reproductive health care services.”
State Rep. Tim Briggs: I will tell you that this upcoming legislative session might prove to be a challenging one in terms of the fight for equality in women's health and women's reproductive rights. Republicans, who control the majority in the House and Senate as well as the governor's office, could try to promote legislation that could actually work AGAINST these issues. No matter how difficult the battle proves to be, I and my colleagues will continue to fight for these important issues. As a lawmaker – and a husband and father – I cannot comprehend a state budget that could potentially eliminate funding for vital women's health services, stripping women of the opportunity to receive something as simple as a check-up for their children or for themselves. That is why I will continue to support state-sponsored programs that offer obstetric and neonatal services, and breast and cervical cancer screenings, to name a few, which are vital for the health and well-being of thousands of Pennsylvania women.
State Rep. Josh Shapiro: It is critical that we remain vigilant in our defense of a woman's right to choose and stop legislation in Harrisburg that seeks to undermine womens health and interfere with medical decisions that ought to be made by a woman and her doctor.
State Senator Daylin Leach: "With so many changes related to health care policy coming up in the near future, it is essential that we get the community together to talk about our plans and concerns, I thank WHYY and Raising Women’s Voices for taking the initiative and bringing residents and lawmakers together for a discussion about an important topic that could affect thousands of lives, just in our neck of the woods."
Other elected offiicals participating in the forum include Representative Vanessa Lowery Brown, Representative-Elect Michelle Brownlee, Representative-Elect Tina Davis, and Representative Tony Payton.