New Voices for Reproductive Justice files amicus brief supporting challenge to Pa. statute, citing disparate harm to Black women and girls
PITTSBURGH — Today, New Voices for Reproductive Justice, supported by In Our Own Voice: National Black Women’s Reproductive Justice Agenda, and joined by 24 organizations from Pennsylvania and across the country, filed an amicus brief in the Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court, in support of the petitioners in Allegheny Reproductive Health Center et al v. Pennsylvania Department of Human Services et al. That lawsuit challenges the Pennsylvania statute banning Medicaid coverage of abortion.
“As the amicus brief explains, the state’s refusal to cover abortion care in its Medicaid program not only violates the constitutional rights of all people in Pennsylvania who rely on Medicaid for their health coverage — it is particularly harmful to Black women, girls and gender non-conforming people,” said La’Tasha D. Mayes, president and CEO of New Voices for Reproductive Justice. “We urge the court to overturn antiquated bans and ensure Medicaid coverage for abortion care in Pennsylvania.”
The Pennsylvania Equal Rights Amendment assures gender equality in all state programs. As the plaintiffs in this case argue, the state’s refusal to cover abortion care is gender-based discrimination. New Voices’ amicus brief, the first of its kind, shows how the health disparities Black women and girls experience are compounded by discriminatory policies like the abortion coverage ban in the Medicaid program.
Because of structural racism and gender inequities, Black women, girls and gender non-conforming people already face significant health disparities and barriers to care, both of which are only compounded for people who need publicly-funded health care. Black women represent 11 percent of Pennsylvania women but account for 31 percent of all pregnancy-related deaths, the direct result of harmful barriers to health coverage and care.
While low-income people who receive health insurance through Medicaid are more likely to experience gaps in contraception use that put them at risk of unintended pregnancy, Black women and girls are disparately likely to experience those gaps, regardless of income level. Black women are more likely to experience income and wealth disparities as well, making Black women and girls more likely to need Medicaid coverage for health care, and disproportionately less likely to be able to afford to pay out of pocket for an abortion.
“The ban on abortion care coverage in Pennsylvania’s Medicaid program means that Black women and girls who need abortion care are forced either to forego care or delay abortion services while they attempt to raise the money to cover costs,” said Marcela Howell, founder and president of In Our Own Voice: National Black Women’s Reproductive Justice Agenda. “Ultimately, delay or denial of abortion care threatens the well-being of the person who needs an abortion.”
The case is pending before the Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania; depending on the Court’s schedule, an additional briefing is expected.
New Voices for Reproductive Justice is a multi-state organization based in Pennsylvania and Ohio dedicated to the health and well-being of Black women, femmes and girls. Founded in Pittsburgh in 2004, New Voices has served over 150,000 Black women, femmes and girls, women of color and LGBTQ+ people of color through leadership development, community organizing, policy advocacy and culture change. Our priority issues include Black maternal health, abortion access and gender-based mass incarceration. New Voices advocates at the national, state and local level for Reproductive Justice – the Human Right of all people to control our bodies, sexuality, gender, work, reproduction and ability to form our families. Our long-term social impact goal is that Black women, femmes and girls live a long, healthy and joyful lives.
In Our Own Voice: National Black Women’s Reproductive Justice Agenda is a national Reproductive Justice organization focused on lifting up the voices of Black women at the national and regional levels in our ongoing policy fight to secure Reproductive Justice for Black women, femmes, queer, trans and gender non-conforming people, and youth. Our strategic partners include Black Women for Wellness, Black Women’s Health Imperative, New Voices for Reproductive Justice, SisterLove, Inc., SisterReach, SPARK Reproductive Justice NOW, The Afiya Center and Women With A Vision.