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Defunding Pregnancy Centers Sacrifices Women’s Safety

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From the Pittsburgh Post Gazette, August 16, 2023
Defunding Pregnancy Help Centers Sacrifices Safety

Guest Columnist Amy Scheuring, Executive Director Women’s Choice Network in Pittsburgh
Governor Josh Shapiro signed his first state budget last week and his administration announced that it
will allow the long-standing contract with Real Alternatives to expire. The modest funding supported
over 30 centers across the state to provide alternatives to abortion and pregnancy related services. In
the wake of last year’s upset of Roe v Wade, the debate over abortion funding has grown more divisive
and heated.

One area of common ground is the desire to protect women’s health and to protect those facing
unexpected pregnancy. Pregnancy Help Centers across the state have been delivering services and
resources for over 40 years as part of the health network in Pennsylvania that works to lower maternal
and infant mortality, support and resource families, and fill the gaps in practical ongoing care for young
families. Centers across the Commonwealth have converted to a medical model and invested countless
private dollars to increase medical services in rural and urban communities. The addition of ultrasound
onsite at pregnancy centers affords women an earlier pregnancy diagnosis which in turn leads to earlier
engagement in prenatal care. Ultrasound also allows for earlier detection of miscarriage, ectopic
pregnancy or other urgent pregnancy complications.

Governor Shapiro states, “Pennsylvanians made clear by electing me as Governor that they support a
woman’s freedom to choose, and I will be steadfast in defending that right.” By funding only one option,
choice is limited. Clearly this administration wants to unilaterally prioritize only one option for women:
the ending of a pregnancy through abortion.

Everyone then, who values women’s health, should pay attention to the recent funding decision as well
as pending legislation that further separates pregnant women from the care they deserve. A decision
that was once “between a woman and her doctor” is being replaced by the promotion of self-
administered abortion using mifepristone or mifeprex (also known as the abortion pill). Pennsylvania’s
abortion leadership is shifting away from what was touted as the “safe, legal, and rare” surgical abortion
procedures of the past, to this DIY method now called “medical abortion.” The abortion pill medical
abortion, which now accounts for over 55% of the abortions in the State, is completed at home leaving a
woman alone and with little access to pre and post abortion care. Mifepristone’s packaging instructions
clearly advises women to consult an ultrasound to determine the gestational age of the baby before
administering the drug, yet clinics, pharmacies, and online sales websites fail to provide this vital service.
By promoting medical abortion, big pharmaceutical companies are now cashing in while women are
further separated from genuine health care. Promotion of these “self-managed” abortions and “pills by
mail” ignore widely acknowledged health protections like medical screening, informed consent, and
parental involvement for minors. Without an ultrasound, many women cannot confidently determine if they are within the number of weeks gestation to safely use these pills. While chemical abortions are
increasing, the number of reported complications from abortions are increasing in Pennsylvania as well.
There were over 300 reported complications from abortion in 2021, a 34% increase from the previous
year. That is double the number of complications from just four years prior and the highest number of
complications recorded in decades. In the absence of a doctor’s care, abortion pills are simply not safe.
Nationally, Mifepristone has been associated with dozens of deaths and hundreds of life-threatening
complications that we know of. Expanding “abortion care” has been preferred over women’s health.
Accessible “abortion care” without common sense safety measures is not care at all. This is the wrong
direction for Pennsylvania.

There is never a need to sacrifice a woman’s health and safety. Local pregnancy help organizations exist
to provide safe and confidential health care to those at risk for abortion before the decision and, if
needed, after. Recently mischaracterized as “fake centers” and “pseudo-medical,” these locally
operated pregnancy centers are directed by board certified Physicians, staffed by RNs and certified
ultrasound techs. There’s nothing fake about offering women and men free STD testing, free
ultrasounds, and meaningful support. Pregnancy centers have a long history in my hometown of
Pittsburgh and across the State as trusted confidential non-profits that provide resources and medical
services to families touched by an unplanned pregnancy. Early ultrasound, nurse consultation, and
accurate gestational dating by highly qualified staff intervene at the earliest days of a pregnancy. Most
women choose life. And for those who choose abortion, pregnancy centers offer post abortion
assessment and care. All of these services are offered at no charge ever. These centers exist across the
Commonwealth with access in nearly every county. Pregnancy Centers offer what all women deserve to
have—a choice to access safe and free care.

Amy Scheuring is the Executive Director of Women’s Choice Network, a network of three medical clinics
and a children’s resale store offering free services in some of Pittsburgh’s neediest neighborhoods since 1985. Mrs. Scheuring is a resident of Richland Township, is an author and speaker, and an avid Penguins