Guest Blogger: State Rep. Dan Frankel, Founder & Co-Chair of the Pennsylvania Women’s Health Caucus


The following item is by our Guest Blogger, State Rep. Dan Frankel, who is the Founder & Co-Chair of the Pennsylvania Women’s Health Caucus. Rep. Frankel also currently serves as the Democratic Caucus Chair for Pennsylvania.

As a legislator who supports reproductive rights, the anniversary of Roe v. Wade is always bitter sweet. On the one hand, I’m reminded of the heroic efforts of men and women to stop the practice of dangerous, back-alley, black market abortion by making certain that all women in the United States could access safe, legal abortion from qualified, law-abiding providers.

On the other hand, I’m a lawmaker.

More specifically, I’m a lawmaker in Pennsylvania, a state considered “hostile” to abortion rights by the Guttmacher Institute, an independent think tank focusing on reproductive health care.

So, I actually don’t need to see the alarming graphs and charts showing a spike in legislation designed to limit access to safe legal abortion over the past few years to know that we’ve got a problem -- because many of those bills cross my desk. 

In fact, Pennsylvania legislators alone took more than 55 votes on limiting access to abortion in one year – 2011. Compare that to 13 votes in the decade previous.

And perhaps the most frustrating, ironic part of this discussion is that those seeking to limit reproductive rights are doing so in the name of women’s health.

Very ironic.

After all, Roe v. Wade, in affirming a woman’s right to abortion, was a civil rights victory for people thinking about law. But for all those medical care providers taking care of women injured in illegal abortions, it was a victory for women’s health. 

Ironic, too, because it’s not as though women don’t have real health problems we should be addressing.

Any recent studies on longevity or health disparities keep highlighting a disturbing fact – for what seems like the first time in US history, some women are living shorter lives than their mothers. And in many counties – including many rural counties in Pennsylvania – women are dying at a rate that’s higher than we would expect.

That begs the question: What does legislation that would truly benefit women’s health look like?

My colleagues, members of the Pennsylvania Women’s Health Caucus, have worked with community advocates to create a package of bills designed to address the real issues real women are facing right now – the Pennsylvania Agenda for Women’s Health.

We’re tackling the real core of what helps people lead better, healthier lives: economic security, access to health care, and safety.

Our legislative package reflects all of those concerns – making sure that women get paid fairly for their work, for starters. Also, making sure employers accommodate their pregnant employees so that they don’t injure themselves or their pregnancies on the job. Ensuring that women aren’t penalized for seeking help for law enforcement in cases of domestic violence. And of course, making sure that women can access a full range of health care – primary care, cancer screening, and safe legal abortion.

I myself will be introducing legislation that will address a concern across the country. In some states legislators have forced abortion providers to read scripts with false information, or provide unnecessary medical procedures, in order to influence a woman when she’s most vulnerable. 

Women’s health cannot be defined by one simple procedure or one complicated decision. Women want legislators to promote legislation that treats them as whole people; people who should be living, longer, healthier lives.

The Pennsylvania Agenda for Women’s Health does just that. 

Link to video: