Following the overturn of Roe, abortion is legal in Pennsylvania up to 24 weeks of pregnancy, with exceptions for the life of the mother and the “substantial and irreversible impairment of a major bodily function.” The state has some protections for women and preborn children, including prohibiting sex-based abortions, requiring parental consent before a minor obtains an abortion, and ensuring women are given a 24-hour reflection period prior to an abortion.

However, the state has seen a rising tide of pro-abortion policy in recent years, with pro-abortion advocates now seeking to repeal critical protections for women and preborn children. After pro-abortion Josh Shapiro was elected Governor of Pennsylvania in 2022, he launched a website for “reproductive health care resources,” promoting the use of chemical abortion drugs. In August 2023, Governor Shapiro announced that he intends to cancel the state’s contract with Real Alternatives, which administers Pennsylvania’s Pregnancy and Parenting Support Services program. This program funds pregnancy resource centers, maternity homes, and adoption agencies.

Republicans have narrow control of the State Senate, and the Democrats control  the House of Representatives following the 2022 Mid-Term elections.  Pennsylvania Supreme Court justices must run in partisan primaries followed by a general election. Justices serve for ten-year terms. The state supreme court is controlled by a pro-abortion majority. There is ongoing litigation in the Pennsylvania Supreme Court regarding whether the state “Hyde Amendment” is unconstitutional.

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Pennsylvania Abortion Quick Facts

  • Pennsylvania is legal in Pennsylvania.
  • Pennsylvania does limit abortion after 24 weeks gestation, with exceptions.
  • Chemical abortion pills are not tightly regulated in Pennsylvania.

Pennsylvania’s Pro-Life Laws Across the Spectrum

Americans United for Life advances the human right to life across the spectrum of issues confronting the dignity of the human person. AUL’s comprehensive analysis of Pennsylvania’s state laws on human life span the full spectrum of life issues from abortion, to health and safety protections, to patient informed consent, to conscience rights and bioethics.

Pennsylvania’s Pro-Life Laws Key

  • Yes, Pennsylvania has this law and it is enforceable
  • Pennsylvania has this law in place, but it is currently not in effect due to litigation
  • No, Pennsylvania has no such law in place
  • Not Applicable
  • To Be Determined

State Constitutional Amendments and Statutes¹

Americans United for Life covers broad pro-life laws in this section. This includes both state constitutional amendments and state statutes designed to protect preborn human life. FOCA/RHA (or Freedom of Choice Acts/Reproductive Health Acts) are laws designed to enshrine and expand abortion and abortion businesses.

  • Constitutional amendment stating no right to abortion
  • Constitutional amendment preventing state funding of abortion
  • Conditional law prohibiting abortion when Roe is overturned
  • Pre-Roe abortion ban that will take effect when Roe is overturned
  • FOCA/RHA, codifying an abortion right in state law.

Mother-Child Gestational and Procedural Protections²

States can protect both mother and child by limiting abortion by gestational age or prohibiting gruesome abortion methods. This category also includes life-saving care requirements for a child born-alive after an abortion, and health and safety requirements for a woman undergoing a chemical abortion.

  • Gestational protections by age/week for preborn children
  • Basic medical care for infant children born alive during attempted abortions
  • Partial-birth (D&X) abortion ban
  • Dismemberment (D&E) abortion ban
  • Telemedicine abortion ban
  • Follow up scheduled with patient for abortion pills complications

Prenatal Non-Discrimination (PRENDA) Protections

Increasingly states are enacting laws to protect unborn babies from eugenic abortions based on gender, disability, or race. Some states provide life-affirming resources for families who receive a diagnosis of a possible genetic anomaly like Down syndrome so they know that they’ll be supported.

  • Protection against discrimination based on gender
  • Protection against discrimination due to prenatal diagnosis
  • Protection against discrimination based on race
  • State-provided life-affirming resources for parents and families

Informed Consent Laws

Many states require a woman to give informed consent to an abortion, which holds abortion to a similar standard as other medical procedures. These protections include the disclosure of an abortion procedure’s nature and risks, the performance of an ultrasound to date the pregnancy and allow a woman to meet her unborn child if she chooses, and the time for a woman to reflect on this grave decision.

  • Basic informed consent for mothers concerning abortion
  • Patient signature or written confirmation of informed consent from provider
  • Patient is provided state-sponsored informed consent website/information
  • Reflection period (24 hours) protecting a mother’s discernment and choice
  • An ultrasound is required to give a mother the opportunity to meet their child
  • Information on risks of abortion procedure
  • Information on the possibility of abortion pill reversal care

Abortion Reporting in Public Health Data

Reporting requirements ensure the government and public have a comprehensive view of abortion in the state when making important public policy decisions. This data includes basic information on instances of abortion, the gestational age of the aborted unborn child, demographics, procedure type, and complications.

  • Basic reporting on instances of abortion
  • Abortion reporting includes gestational age data
  • Abortion reporting includes demographic information
  • Abortion reporting includes procedure type
  • Complication reporting
  • Anonymized/aggregate data is made available to the public
  • Anonymized/aggregate data is submitted to the CDC

Parental Rights and Protection of Minors

States protect a minor considering abortion by involving her parents in her life-changing decision, but also provide guidelines for judicial bypass to parental involvement when it is necessary. Other laws included in this section are safe haven laws which create a safe pathway to give up an infant and prevent child abandonment, and the dissemination of information on perinatal hospice to parents of unborn children with fetal anomalies.

  • Parental consent before a minor obtains an abortion
  • Parental notice of a minor obtaining an abortion
  • Judicial bypass limits
  • Mandatory reporting of suspected abuse
  • Safe haven protections (28 days)
  • Perinatal hospice resources

Basic Health and Safety Standards

These laws bring abortion businesses up to the health and safety standards of medical facilities. States may limit both chemical and surgical abortion procedures to physicians, require the physician be licensed by the state, and require emergency transfer agreements or admitting privileges for the physician or the facility to protect a patient if she suffers post-abortion complications.

  • Established health and safety standards for abortion businesses
  • Basic regulatory inspections for abortion businesses
  • Only physicians can perform abortions (all methods)
  • Physicians required to be licensed in the state
  • Emergency transfer/admitting privilege patient protections
  • Physician’s license/credentials are disclosed to patients

Legal Recognition of Human Dignity for Preborn Persons

This section covers the ways states recognize the human dignity of unborn children. States increasingly require dignified disposition of fetal remains, whether from abortion or miscarriage. The law may provide for the issuance of a fetal death or stillbirth certificate. States may also protect the dignity of unborn children by prohibiting fetal experimentation and banning the sale or transfer of human fetal remains.

  • Dignified disposition of fetal remains required
  • Parents may request dignified disposition
  • Human fetal death or stillbirth certificate issued to recognize the life of human persons
  • Sale or transfer of human fetal remains prohibited
  • Fetal experimentation banned

Fetal Homicide and Wrongful Death/Life

Fetal homicide laws establish criminal penalties for the death of an unborn child. Wrongful death suits provide a civil cause of action for the death of an unborn child. A prohibition on wrongful life/birth suits affirms that no life is “unwanted.”

  • Fetal homicide criminalization
  • Fetal homicide law in place from the moment of conception
  • Wrongful death suits
  • Prohibition on wrongful life/birth suits

Assisted Suicide and Patient Care

These laws protect end-of-life patients from physician-assisted suicide, a practice that exploits vulnerable patients, has little government oversight, and undermines modern medicine. The Life-Sustaining Care Act ensures healthcare professionals may not override a minor patient or her surrogate’s decision to obtain or continue life-sustaining care. States with patient nondiscrimination acts protect patients from age or disability discrimination.

  • Assisted suicide prohibition
  • Life-sustaining care act
  • Patient non-discrimination on the basis of age or disability

Bioethics, Human Cloning, and Embryo Research

As medical technology evolves, states increasingly enact pro-life bioethics policies to reaffirm human dignity and ban cloning. These laws also require ethical medical practices, ban destructive embryo research, and regulate assisted reproductive technology.

  • Bans human cloning
  • Bans taxpayer funding for human cloning
  • Bans destructive embryo research
  • Encourages ethical alternatives to embryo research
  • Requires informed consent for assisted reproductive technologies
  • Regulates egg harvesting

Healthcare Freedom of Conscience

These laws protect the freedom of conscience of healthcare professionals, institutions, and pharmacists against forced participation in assisted suicide and abortion. States also safeguard the conscience rights of healthcare professionals and institutions against unethical medical research.

  • Individuals protected against abortion participation
  • Public/Private institutions protected against abortion participation
  • Pharmacists protected against abortion participation
  • Individuals protected against participation in unethical research
  • Private/public institutions protected against participation in unethical research
  • Individuals protected against participation in assisted suicide
  • Private/public institutions protected against participation in assisted suicide
  • Pharmacists protected against participation in assisted suicide

Pennsylvania Pro-Life Legislation Tracker

Pennsylvania Abortion Inspection Initiative

According to AUL’s Unsafe project, Pennsylvania has a regulatory framework in place through the state health department. Abortion businesses have received citations for issues with cleanliness, failing to inform the state after incidents involving patients being sent to the hospital, failing to receive parental consent prior to a minor’s abortion, and improper dosages of medication.

Pennsylvania has a regulatory framework in place by which the Pennsylvania Department of Health, through the Health Care Facilities Division, posts inspection reports online.57 Facilities in the state were cited for failing to notify patients after incidents, issues with cleanliness, failing to inform the state after incidents involving patients being sent to the hospital, failing to monitor temperature and humidity levels in procedure rooms, improper dosages of medication, and failing to ensure medical records were properly authenticated. The Philadelphia Women’s Center failed to report three serious event occurrences to the Department. One patient was transferred to a hospital for “cervical [sic] laceration.” A second patient was transferred to the hospital for “suspected perforation [sic].” The third patient was hospitalized for an overdose of Cyototec, an abortion drug, and diagnosed with disseminated intravascular coagulation. In addition, two Planned Parenthood facilities (PPSP Far Northeast Health Center and PPSP Surgical Locust Street Health Center) were cited for failing to make mandatory reports of minor patients under the age of 16, some as young as 13 years old. Both facilities’ internal policies stated that such incidents are “a crime, however, it is NOT a mandated reportable incident.” One of the 13-year-old patients reported their age of first intercourse as 11 and another reported their age of first intercourse as 12.

Pennsylvania has a regulatory framework in place by which the Pennsylvania Department of Health, through the Health Care Facilities Division, posts inspection reports online: Health Care Facilities, Pennsylvania Department of Health.

DATE RANGE: 2011–2019