CITY COUNCIL PASSES SWEEPING REPRODUCTIVE HEALTH PROTECTIONS IN FINAL SESSION OF 2022

In Council News, Helen Gym, Jamie Gauthier, Kendra Brooks, News by PHL Council

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PHILADELPHIA – Today, City Council gave final approval to the Reproductive Freedom Platform, a package of bills that extends critical protections to anyone who receives or provides reproductive healthcare in Philadelphia. The legislation, which was introduced by Councilmembers Kendra Brooks (At-Large), Jamie Gauthier (3rd District), and former Councilmember Helen Gym (At-Large), was passed during the final City Council session of the year, ensuring Philadelphia remains one of the safest cities in the nation for patients and providers of reproductive healthcare services.

“As the elected representatives of this city, we cannot stand idly by and let residents and legislators in far away states control what goes on here in Philadelphia,” said Councilmember Jamie Gauthier. “This is a public health issue. We need to protect the safety of all birthing persons, babies, and children in Philadelphia, regardless of whether they call this city home, by strengthening their right to privacy when accessing reproductive healthcare.”

When the Dobbs decision came down, we saw the rage and sorrow of a city that refused to have their autonomy threatened out in the streets,” said Councilmember Kendra Brooks. “We marched in step with a diverse, broad movement that demanded a future defined not by shame, stigma, and hatred, but by freedom — the freedom to control your body, your family, and the course of your life. And that’s why our City Council body will do everything in our power to protect our constituents, our healthcare providers, and anyone who chooses to travel to our city to receive reproductive care. This precedent-setting legislation ensures that no matter who you are or where you work, your reproductive healthcare decisions can’t be used against you. Because freely accessing reproductive services is a cornerstone of quality healthcare — and healthcare is a human right.”

The package codifies critical privacy and anti-discrimination protections and represents the joint efforts of City Council and Philadelphia providers, patients, and advocates to fortify reproductive healthcare autonomy and privacy. 

The legislative package contains three bills:

  • Bill No. 220664, introduced by Councilmember Brooks, updates Philadelphia’s anti-discrimination law to clearly prevent workplace discrimination against an employee for reproductive healthcare decisions—including abortion care, fertility assistance, and birth control. 

  • Bill No. 220665, introduced by Councilmember Gauthier, would deter the use of “Texas vigilante” style laws that subject patients, helpers, or providers to civil liability for abortion services that are legal in PA, by permitting Philadelphians to countersue.

  • Bill No. 220656, introduced by former Councilmember Gym, bars the disclosure of reproductive healthcare information when the person doing the disclosure knows or should know that the information will be used for the purposes of abusive litigation or harassment. 

In addition to the three bills, a resolution creating a taskforce of administration officials, city council members, and stakeholders to mobilize all aspects of city government to protect and expand reproductive care, passed in October. 

“The Dobbs decision shows the importance of clarifying our rights into the text of the law, especially at the local and state levels. The Women’s Law Project strongly supports the passage of the three reproductive rights bills,” said Amal Bass, Interim Co-Executive Director, the Women’s Law Project. “Anti-abortion states threaten to interfere in abortion care that is legal here. There is so much more we must do to protect our rights and make abortion accessible, but these three bills are an important part of the protections we need.”

“The three bills that encompass the Reproductive Freedom Platform are the first step towards creating a city where bodily autonomy and abortion access are not just tolerated, but protected,” said Kelly Davis, Executive Director, New Voices for Reproductive Justice. “New Voices for Reproductive Justice applauds former Councilmember Helen Gym, as well as Councilmembers Jamie Gauthier and Kendra Brooks—all powerful women of color—for taking such decisive action to protect our human rights at a time when it seems elected officials across the country would rather try to strip them away.” 

“I am a pediatrician specializing in adolescent medicine, living and working in Philadelphia. In my practice, I care for teenagers with a variety of health care needs, including reproductive health and primacy care. I am strongly in favor of this legislation to protect reproductive rights in our city as I know they will benefit my patients,” said Dr. Sarah Green, Philadelphia physician and Fellow, Physicians for Reproductive Health. “Philadelphia health care providers should be able to provide safe, essential health care to every patient without fear of prosecution. And our patients deserve to access the care they need, no matter where they are from. I am proud to live in a city that is prioritizing reproductive healthcare.”

 “This year as Philadelphia Women’s Center celebrates our 50th anniversary, we find ourselves providing care without the constitutional protections afforded by Roe v Wade in 1972,” said Lizbeth Rodriguez, Community Engagement Coordinator for the Philadelphia and Delaware County Women’s Centers and Patient advocate for the Philadelphia Women’s Center. “Still, we know that reproductive rights have never promised practical access to abortion care — particularly for communities most impacted by structural racism and reproductive oppression. We are grateful to Councilmembers Kendra Brooks and Jamie Gauthier, and former Councilmember Helen Gym for championing the Reproductive Freedom Platform and to the Philadelphia City Council for passing this important legislation. Our city is taking an important step toward ensuring that abortion care is protected and supported — for all of us.”

“In the post-Roe world, we must do everything that we can to protect access to the full spectrum of reproductive health services, including abortion,” said Dr. Joey Whelihan, Philadelphia Pediatrician. “I applaud the Council on the introduction of these three bills which seek to protect those who seek safe, evidence-based reproductive healthcare. In particular, I admire that these bills shore up existing loop-holes which threaten those who obtain legal abortion. These bills make me proud to be a Philadelphian and proud to practice medicine in a city that recognizes this essential human right.”

The three bills are cosponsored by Councilmembers Cindy Bass (8th District) and Katherine Gilmore Richardson (At-Large). The resolution is additionally supported by Councilmembers Kenyatta Johnson (2nd District), Curtis Jones, Jr. (4th District), and Isaiah Thomas (At-Large)

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