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State Laws

Pennsylvania


Political Information

Executive (Governor)

Pro-choice

Senate

Anti-choice

House

Anti-choice

Abortion-Care Policies

Abortion Providers

Abortion Providers: Restrictions

Pennsylvania imposes extra restrictions on abortion providers, despite the fact that all health-care providers already must comply with a variety of federal and state regulations governing health, safety, building and fire codes, and zoning requirements.  

Restrictions on Where Abortion Services May Be Provided

Among the most common TRAP regulations are those restricting the provision of abortion services to hospitals or other specialized facilities, which place medically unnecessary and costly requirements on doctors and can decrease the availability of abortion care for women. Pennsylvania has such regulations, including:

Any medical facility – including a private physician’s office – in which an abortion is provided must comply with a uniquely imposed licensure scheme not required of other medical providers. 28 Pa. Code § 29.43(a).  In addition to meeting all the requirements for ambulatory surgical facilities- including administrative, professional qualification, patient testing, and physical-plant requirements-abortion providers must also comply with dozens of additional administrative rules. 35 Pa. Stat. § 448.806; 28 Pa. Code § 29.33, .38; 18 Pa. Cons. Stat. Ann. § 3207, .40 Pa. Cons. Stat. Ann. § 305(c), 315(a)-(c) (Enacted 2002; Last Amended 2011).  Such facilities are also subject to at least one unannounced inspection per year.  35 Pa. Stat. § 448.813.

All providers must be located within 30 minutes of a hospital that has agreed in writing to "supply emergency services" to the clinic’s patients.  28 Pa. Code § 29.33(10). No exception is made for rural areas, and nothing in the statute requires a hospital to agree to such an arrangement.

Pennsylvania has a partially unconstitutional requirement that all abortion services after the first trimester be provided in a hospital that maintains an "obstetrical service" in compliance with state regulations.  28 Pa. Code § 29.34.

The U.S. Supreme Court held that a second-trimester hospitalization requirement unconstitutionally burdens a woman’s right to choose an abortion.  Akron v. Akron Ctr. for Reprod. Health, 462 U.S. 416 (1983).

Restrictions on Who May Provide Abortion Services

Pennsylvania prohibits certain qualified health-care professionals from providing abortion services.

Only a physician or doctor of osteopathy licensed to practice medicine in the state may provide abortion care. 18 Pa. Cons. Stat. Ann. § 3203 (Enacted 1982; Last Amended 1990); 18 Pa. Cons. Stat. Ann. § 3204 (Enacted 1982; Last Amended 1990).  


Abortion Rights

Post-Viability Ban

Pennsylvania’s post-viability abortion restriction states that no abortion may be provided after the 23rd week of pregnancy unless the attending physician and another physician who has examined the woman concur in writing that the procedure is necessary to preserve the woman’s life or to prevent a "substantial and irreversible impairment of a major bodily function."  The physician must use the procedure most likely to result in fetal survival unless in the physician’s good faith medical judgment that method poses a significantly greater risk of the woman’s death or a "substantial and irreversible impairment of a major bodily function" of the woman than other available methods.  A second physician must attend.  18 Pa. Cons. Stat. Ann. § 3211 (Enacted 1989).

Regarding a previous version of this law, the U.S. Supreme Court held that the requirement that the physician use the abortion method most likely to result in fetal survival was unconstitutional because it required the woman to bear an increased medical risk.  Thornburgh v. Am. Coll. of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, 476 U.S. 747, 769 (1986).

NARAL Pro-Choice America supports the legal framework established in Roe v. Wade. Regarding the right to abortion in the third trimester, Roe allows for restrictions on post-viability abortion so long as they contain adequate exceptions to protect the woman’s life and health. However, many states have bans with inadequate exceptions, no exceptions at all, or define viability as occurring at a particular point in pregnancy. A state may not prohibit abortion prior to viability, which is that point at which a fetus is capable of "meaningful life" outside a woman’s body. Roe v. Wade, 410 U.S. 113, 163 (1973). Because viability is a point that varies with each pregnancy, states may not declare that it occurs at a particular gestational age.

NARAL Pro-Choice America opposes Pennsylvania’s post-viability restriction because the health exception is dangerously narrow.  NARAL Pro-Choice America also opposes this law because it is unconstitutional to the extent that it prohibits pre-viability abortion by defining viability at 24 weeks.  A state may not prohibit abortion prior to viability, which is that point at which a fetus is capable of "meaningful life" outside a woman’s body.  Roe v. Wade, 410 U.S. 113, 163 (1973).  Because viability is a point that varies with each pregnancy, states may not declare that it occurs at a particular gestational age.  Colautti v. Franklin, 439 U.S. 379, 388-89 (1979).


Reasons-Based Ban: Race- and/or Sex Selection

Pennsylvania bans abortion if sought solely for reasons of the sex of the pregnancy. PA ST 18 Pa.C.S.A. section 3204. (enacted 1982 revised 1989)


Biased Counseling

Biased Counseling

A woman may not obtain an abortion until at least 24 hours after the attending or referring physician orally informs her of: (1) the probable gestational age of the fetus; (2) the nature of the proposed procedure, including risks and alternatives; and (3) the medical risks of carrying the pregnancy to term.

In addition, at least 24 hours prior to an abortion, the woman must receive from the attending or referring physician, a health-care practitioner, physician’s assistant, technician, or social worker a state-mandated lecture that must include: (1) that medical assistance benefits may be available for prenatal care, childbirth, and neonatal care; (2) that the "father" is liable for child support, even if he offered to pay for an abortion; and (3) that she has a right to review state-prepared materials that describe the "unborn child" and list agencies that offer alternatives to abortion.

The state-prepared materials must: (1) describe with pictures the probable anatomical and physiological characteristics of the fetus at two-week gestational increments, including the possibility of survival; (2) provide information about medical assistance benefits for prenatal care, childbirth, and neonatal care; (3) state that a physician who provides abortion services without a woman’s "informed" consent may be liable to her for damages in a civil action; (4) state that the "father" is liable for child support, even if he offered to pay for an abortion; (5) state that adoptive parents may legally pay the costs of prenatal care, childbirth, and neonatal care; (6) describe the commonly employed abortion procedures, the medical risks associated with each, the "possible detrimental psychological effects of abortion," and the medical risks of carrying a pregnancy to term; and (7) provide a comprehensive list of public and private agencies and services, including adoption agencies, available to assist the woman through pregnancy, upon childbirth, and while the child is dependent, or include a 24-hour toll-free hotline to obtain such a list.

18 Pa. Cons. Stat. Ann. §§ 3205, 3208 (Enacted 1982; Last Amended 1989).

The U.S. Supreme Court held that this law is constitutional. Planned Parenthood of S.E. Pa. v. Casey, 505 U.S. 833 (1992).


Mandatory Delays

Mandatory Delay

Pennsylvania requires a woman seeking an abortion to wait at least 24 hours between the time she receives biased-counseling materials and when she can get the procedure. 18 Pa. Cons. Stat. Ann. §§ 3205, 3208 (Enacted 1982; Last Amended 1989).

The U.S. Supreme Court held that this law is constitutional. Planned Parenthood of S.E. Pa. v. Casey, 505 U.S. 833 (1992).


Insurance Coverage for Abortion

Prohibits Abortion Coverage in the Insurance Exchange

Does Pennsylvania expressly prohibit plans in its state exchange from covering abortion services?

Yes.  Health-insurance policies offered in the new state exchange established under health-care reform may not include abortion coverage, with exceptions only for cases where (1) an independent physician certifies that an abortion is necessary to save a woman’s life, (2) the pregnancy is the result of rape, which prior to the abortion, has been personally reported by the victim to a law-enforcement agency along with the identity of the offender, if known, or (3) the pregnancy is the result of incest which, prior to the abortion, has been personally reported by the survivor to a law-enforcement agency or child protective services.  Nothing in the law prohibits the purchase of abortion coverage outside the exchange through an optional rider for which an additional premium is paid.  However, insurers are not required to offer such riders and there is no evidence that such separate policies exist. (Even if they did exist, offering women the "option" to pay for separate abortion coverage is a false promise because no one plans for an unplanned pregnancy.)  40, Pa. Cons. Stat. Ann. §§ 3501, 3502  (Enacted 2013).


Prohibits Abortion Coverage for Public Employees

Does Pennsylvania expressly prohibit insurance plans for public employees from covering abortion services?

Yes.  Employee health plans funded by the state may not include abortion coverage, with exceptions only for cases where (1) an independent physician certifies that an abortion is necessary to save a woman’s life, (2) the pregnancy is the result of rape, which prior to the abortion, has been personally reported by the victim to a law-enforcement agency along with the identity of the offender, if known, or (3) the pregnancy is the result of incest which, prior to the abortion, has been personally reported by the survivor to a law-enforcement agency or child protective services.  Nothing in the law prohibits the purchase of abortion coverage outside the exchange through an optional rider for which an additional premium is paid.  However, insurers are not required to offer such riders and there is no evidence that such separate policies exist. (Even if they did exist, offering women the "option" to pay for separate abortion coverage is a false promise because no one plans for an unplanned pregnancy.)  18 Pa. Cons. Stat. Ann. §§ 3215(c), (d) (Enacted 1982; Last Amended 1988).


Abortion Coverage for Low-Income People

Restricts Low-Income Women’s Access to Abortion

Pennsylvania prohibits public funding for abortion for women eligible for state medical assistance for general health care unless the procedure is necessary to preserve her life or the pregnancy is the result of rape or incest.  If the woman has been raped or is the victim of incest, she must personally report the incident to a law-enforcement agency or child protective services before the abortion, unless the physician certifies that the woman was unable to report the crime for physical or psychological reasons.  Pa. Dep’t of Public Welfare, Medical Assistance Bulletin, Clarification of Payment Policy for Abortion Services (Nov. 28, 2006); Medical Assistance Program Provider Handbooks and Billing Guides (Jun.12, 2009).

Partially invalid and partially enjoined statutes provide that a woman eligible for state medical assistance may not obtain public funds for an abortion unless a second, independent physician certifies that the procedure is necessary to preserve her life or the pregnancy is the result of a rape personally reported by the victim to a law-enforcement agency prior to the abortion or incest personally reported by the victim to a law enforcement agency or to child protective services prior to the abortion. 18 Pa. Cons. Stat. Ann. §§ 3215(c), (j) (Prior Statute Enacted 1974; Current Statute Enacted 1982; Last Amended 1989); 62 Pa. Cons. Stat. Ann. § 453 (Enacted 1980).

A court held that § 3215(c)’s independent-physician certification and § 3215(j)’s non-waivable rape and incest-reporting requirements conflict with federal law, and issued an injunction prohibiting their enforcement.  Elizabeth Blackwell Health Ctr. for Women v. Knoll, 61 F.3d 170 (3d Cir. 1995), cert. denied, 516 U.S. 1093 (1996).

A court upheld in part and invalidated in part previous versions of § 3215(c) and § 453 that limited funding to cases of life endangerment, or rape or incest reported within 72 hours.  The court held that limiting funding to cases of life endangerment, rape, or incest did not violate the Pennsylvania Constitution by denying some medically necessary abortion services; however, the court held that the 72-hour reporting requirement for rape and incest was unconstitutional.  Fischer v. Dep’t. of Pub. Welfare, 482 A.2d 1148 (Pa. Commw. Ct. 1984), aff’d, 502 A.2d 114 (Pa. 1985) (addressing only the limiting of funding for some medically necessary abortions).


Young People & Abortion

Parental Consent

Pennsylvania law restricts young women’s access to abortion.

Is the law enforceable?  Yes.  The U.S. Supreme Court held that this law is constitutional. Planned Parenthood of S. E. Pa. v. Casey, 505 U.S. 833 (1992).

Who is considered a minor?  A young woman under the age of 18 who is not emancipated.

What is required – parental consent or parental notice?  Consent.

Who must provide consent?  One parent.

Are there other trusted adults who may provide consent instead?  Yes, but only if neither parent is available; then any adult person standing in loco parentis is sufficient.

What is the process for obtaining consent?  A young woman may not obtain an abortion unless the attending physician secures the "informed" consent of one parent.  If the young woman’s pregnancy resulted from incest with her father, the mother’s consent is sufficient.

May the parental mandate be waived if a young woman is a victim of rape or incest?  No.

May the parental mandate be waived if a young woman is a victim of child abuse?  No.

May the parental mandate be waived if a young woman’s health is threatened?  Yes, but only if a medical emergency exists.  A medical emergency is defined as a medical condition that necessitates an immediate abortion to preserve the woman’s life or for which a delay will create "serious risk of substantial and irreversible impairment of major bodily function."

May the parental mandate be waived under any other circumstances?  Yes, the young woman may try to obtain permission from a judge.

If a young woman must obtain permission from a judge, what is the process?  She must secure a court order stating either that she is mature and capable of giving informed consent or that an abortion is in her best interests.

Are there other significant requirements under the law?  No.

Has a court considered the constitutionality of this law?  Yes.

The U.S. Supreme Court held that this law is constitutional.  Planned Parenthood of S. E. Pa. v. Casey, 505 U.S. 833 (1992).

Other information about the law:  None.

18 Pa. Cons. Stat. Ann. §§ 3206 (Enacted 1982; Last Amended 1992), 3203 (Enacted 1982; Last Amended 1989).


Family-Planning Policies

Insurance Coverage & Contraception

No state measure.

Contraception Coverage for Low-Income People

Supports Low-Income Women’s Access to Contraception

Pennsylvania provides increased access to reproductive-health-care services through a a State Plan Amendment (SPA) to its Medicaid program.  As of July 1, 2015, the SPA allows the state to cover family-planning services for all female and male Pennsylvania residents with incomes at or below 220 percent of the federal poverty level who are not otherwise eligible for state health-care programs.  Additionally, enrollees must be (1) U.S. citizens or persons who meet the state’s defined immigration requirements and (2) Pennsylvania residents.

Beneficiaries of family-planning coverage available through the waiver are not required to pay premiums or co-payments for covered services.  Covered services include: medical history and physical exam; family planning counseling and coordination of care; limited pharmacy services, including birth control supplies and medication, vaccines and supplies to prevent and treat sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) and infections; limited laboratory services including testing for STDs and HIV; and cervical and testicular cancer prevention and screening.

Pennsylvania State Plan Amendment, PA-15-019, at https://www.medicaid.gov/State-resource-center/Medicaid-State-Plan-Amendments/Downloads/PA/PA-15-0019.pdf.


Emergency Contraception

EC: Other

Pennsylvania law ensures that sexual-assault survivors receive access to emergency contraception (EC) in hospital emergency rooms.  As part of the minimum standards for the examination and treatment of a sexual-assault survivor, a physician or other health-care provider must offer a sexual-assault survivor information about EC and provide medication to her upon request.

A hospital may be exempted from the law if compliance would be contrary to the hospital’s stated religious or moral beliefs.  If the hospital determines not to provide EC based on a religious or moral objection, it must notify the Department of Health of the Commonwealth, law-enforcement agencies, and ambulance and emergency medical-care and transport services within 30 days of its decision.  Moreover, the hospital is required to provide sexual-assault survivors with oral and written notice that it does not offer EC due to religious or moral objections.  The hospital must also upon request provide a sexual-assault survivor immediate transportation, at no cost, to the closest hospital where she may obtain the medication.

28 Pa. Code § 101.4 (2008); 28 Pa. Code § 117.51-53 (2008); 28 Pa. Code § 117.55 (2008); 28 Pa. Code § 117.57 (2008)


Other Important Issues

Clinic Protections

No state measure.

Refusals & Guarantees

Refusals of Medical Care

ABORTION REFUSAL CLAUSE

Pennsylvania allows certain individuals or entities to refuse to provide abortion services.

To whom does the refusal clause apply? Physicians, nurses, staff members, employees of hospitals or other health-care facilities, or hospitals.

What does the refusal clause allow? No physician, nurse, staff member, or employee of a hospital or other health-care facility, who objects in writing on moral, religious, or professional grounds, may be required to or held liable for refusing to participate or cooperate in abortion.

A person who is discriminated against because of a refusal to aid, abet, or facilitate abortion against his or her conscience may bring a claim for damages including $5000 in punitive damages. No private hospital or other health-care facility may be required to or held liable for refusing to provide abortion care contrary to a written ethical policy adopted after January 22, 1973 and posted conspicuously for public inspection.

The expressed willingness or refusal of a private facility to provide abortion care may not be a basis for discrimination, denial of public funds, or other penalty. This denial clause does not permit a student or an employee either to: (1) refuse to participate in an emergency surgical procedure that involves an inevitable abortion; or (2) refuse to complete participation in a surgical procedure voluntarily undertaken without knowing it would involve an abortion.

No hospital or other health-care facility may be required to provide or permit abortion care contrary to its stated ethical policy. The refusal may not be grounds for liability.

Must the refusal be in writing? Yes.

Does the law require the refusing entity to notify the persons affected? No. However, except for facilities that provide abortion services exclusively, each facility that provides abortion care must post prominently a notice of the right not to participate for medical personnel.

Are there circumstances under which a refusal clause may not be exercised? Yes. The expressed willingness or refusal of a person to participate or cooperate in abortion may not be a basis for discrimination, disciplinary action, denial of public funds, or other penalty except where:

(1) this expression constitutes an overt, disruptive act, or endangers the health or safety of a patient;

(2) an employer proves that accommodating the person’s needs constitutes an undue hardship or that non-objection to abortion is a bona fide occupational qualification; or

(3) the employer is a health-care facility operated exclusively for the provision of abortion care.

Does the law require the refusing individual or entity to provide medically and factually accurate information or provide a referral for abortion services? No.

Does the law provide a mechanism for women to otherwise obtain specific reproductive-health services, information, or referrals if an individual and/or entity exercises a refusal clause? No.

43 Pa. Cons. Stat. Ann. § 955.2 (Enacted 1973); 18 Pa. Cons. Stat. Ann. § 3213 (Enacted 1982; Last Amended 1988); 16 Pa. Code §§ 51.1 – 51.61 (Enacted 1977).

STERILIZATION REFUSAL CLAUSE

Pennsylvania allows certain individuals or entities to refuse to provide or participate in sterilizing procedures.

To whom does the refusal clause apply? Physicians, nurses, staff members, employees of hospitals or other health-care facilities, or hospitals.

What does the refusal clause allow? No physician, nurse, staff member, or employee of a hospital or other health-care facility, who objects in writing on moral, religious, or professional grounds, may be required to or held liable for refusing to participate or cooperate in a sterilization.

No private hospital or other health-care facility may be required to or held liable for refusing to provide or permit a sterilization contrary to a written ethical policy adopted after January 22, 1973 and posted conspicuously for public inspection.

The expressed willingness or refusal of a private facility to provide or permit sterilization may not be a basis for discrimination, denial of public funds, or other penalty. This denial clause does not permit a student or an employee either to: (1) refuse to participate in an emergency surgical procedure that involves an inevitable abortion; or (2) refuse to complete participation in a surgical procedure voluntarily undertaken without knowing it would involve an abortion.

No hospital or other health-care facility may be required to provide or permit sterilization contrary to its stated ethical policy. The refusal may not be grounds for liability.

Must the refusal be in writing? Yes.

Does the law require the refusing entity to notify the persons affected? Yes. Except for facilities that provide abortion services exclusively, each facility that provides abortion care must post prominently a notice of the right not to participate.

Are there circumstances under which a refusal clause may not be exercised? Yes. The expressed willingness or refusal of a person to participate or cooperate in abortion may not be a basis for discrimination, disciplinary action, denial of public funds, or other penalty except where:

(1) this expression constitutes an overt, disruptive act, or endangers the health or safety of a patient;

(2) an employer proves that accommodating the person’s needs constitutes an undue hardship or that non-objection to abortion is a bona fide occupational qualification; or

(3) the employer is a health-care facility operated exclusively for the provision of sterilization services.

Does the law require the refusing individual or entity to provide medically and factually accurate information or provide a referral for abortion services? No.

Does the law provide a mechanism for women to otherwise obtain specific reproductive-health services, information, or referrals if an individual and/or entity exercises a refusal clause? No.

43 Pa. Cons. Stat. Ann. § 955.2 (Enacted 1973); 18 Pa. Cons. Stat. Ann. § 3213 (Enacted 1982; Last Amended 1988); 16 Pa. Code §§ 51.1 – 51.61 (Enacted 1977).


Counseling & Referral Bans

Counseling & Referral Ban

No funds expended through women’s service programs grants can be used by an organization to counsel, refer, or provide abortion services.  An organization receiving such funds must be physically and financially separate from an affiliated organization that engages in such activities.  72 Pa. Cons. Stat. Ann. § 1729-B (Enacted 2006).

No funds expended for grants to promote childbirth and alternatives to abortion can be used by an organization that provides, counsels, or refers for abortion.  An organization receiving such funds must be physically and financially separate from an affiliated organization that engages in such activities.  2016 Pa. Laws Act 2016-25.


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