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Abortion in Pennsylvania: Here’s what to know

The U.S. Supreme Court has overturned the landmark abortion rights case, Roe v. Wade. Here's what that means if you live in Pennsylvania.

Jennifer Lehmberg, MD at CHOP, holds sign in front of a crowd during the 2021 Women’s March.
Jennifer Lehmberg, MD at CHOP, holds sign in front of a crowd during the 2021 Women’s March.Read moreTYGER WILLIAMS / Staff Photographer

The U.S. Supreme Court struck down Roe v. Wade, the 1973 landmark court case that established protections for people seeking abortions and reproductive care nationwide.

Despite the ruling making abortions illegal, some states have already put protections in place. In Pennsylvania, abortion is still legal — at least for now. Gov. Tom Wolf has stated that abortions will remain legal in the state, however that could change when voters elect a new governor in November. Republican candidate for governor, State Sen. Doug Mastriano has said that he would sign a 6-week abortion ban into law if given the opportunity as governor, with no exceptions for rape, incest, or the safety of the pregnant person.

For now, abortions in Pennsylvania are still legal. Here’s a look at what’s at stake in the Philadelphia region:

How common is abortion?

Pennsylvania reported about 32,120 abortions in 2020.

White patients accounted for about 46% of abortions, 44% involved Black patients, and 10% were among Hispanic patients, according to a 2020 report by the Pennsylvania Department of Health.

About 88% of people who had an abortion that year were unmarried, and 89% were between ages 20 and 39.

A third of those who terminated pregnancies did not have any children, while two-thirds already had at least one child.

Philadelphia residents accounted for just over a third of people who received an abortion in Pennsylvania in 2020.

There were about 22,000 abortions in New Jersey hospitals and licensed ambulatory care facilities in 2019, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; however, this does not capture the likely many more procedures performed at private doctors’ offices and clinics that are not required to report to the Health Department.

Delaware reported 2,042 abortions in 2019, according to the CDC.

Are there restrictions to abortion in the region?

Pregnant people can obtain an abortion in Pennsylvania prior to 24 weeks into a pregnancy. Abortions at 24 weeks or beyond are permitted only when the person’s life or health is in jeopardy. In 2020, about 88% of abortions in Pennsylvania occurred before eight weeks’ gestation, according to the Health Department report.

In Pennsylvania, pregnant people under age 18 must get consent from a parent, and anyone seeking an abortion must first receive counseling about abortion, then wait 24 hours before having the procedure.

New Jersey ranks among the states with the fewest restrictions to abortion. Minors do not need parental consent, and there is no mandatory waiting period. In January, Gov. Phil Murphy signed into law new rules that protect the state’s abortion rights regardless of whether Roe v. Wade is overturned.

Where are abortions performed in Pennsylvania?

As of 2017, 43 facilities in Pennsylvania performed abortions, according to the Guttmacher Institute, which studies and advocates for reproductive health. About 90% of abortions took place in eight of Pennsylvania’s 67 counties: Philadelphia, Chester, Delaware, Allegheny, Dauphin, Lehigh, Northampton, and York, according to the Pennsylvania Health Department’s most recent report on abortion services.

What is the difference between medical and surgical abortion?

Surgical abortion is performed at a clinic or medical facility. Medical abortion, or medication abortion, is conducted by taking medication orally and/or vaginally that stops the pregnancy. These have become much more prevalent due to their accessibility, accounting for just over half of all abortions in Pennsylvania in 2020. Medication abortion will likely become even more common if a court decision overturning Roe v. Wade limits access to clinic abortions later in pregnancy, according to an analysis by Guttmacher.

This article has been updated since it first published.

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