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Forty Years After Roe v. Wade, Pa. Abortion Clinic Remains Battleground

Forty Years After Roe v. Wade, Pa. Abortion Clinic Remains Battleground

January 14, 2013 — On the 40th anniversary of the Supreme Court's decision in Roe v. Wade, activists on both sides of the issue at a Pennsylvania abortion clinic are drained by the decades-long fight, the Washington Post's "Wonkblog" reports.

Efforts to provide or end abortion services at Pittsburgh's Allegheny Reproductive Health Center are emblematic of the battle over abortion rights over the past four decades, according to "Wonkblog."

Claire Keyes, the longtime director of the clinic, said she initially felt optimistic that Roe had settled the abortion-rights debate. On the other side, Helen Cindrich -- leader of the state's oldest antiabortion-rights group, People Concerned for the Unborn Child -- felt confident that public opinion would soon turn against abortion. Both Keyes and Cindrich said they did not expect to still be fighting for their respective causes four decades after Roe.

Role of ARHC, Casey Decision

Pennsylvania came to the forefront of the abortion-rights debate in the 1970s after sending more abortion-related legislation to the Supreme Court than any other state. Among other laws, Pennsylvania prohibited the use of Medicaid funding for elective abortions, a move that many states copied.

In the late 1970s and through the 1980s, conflicts escalated at ARHC as antiabortion-rights protestersstaged sit-ins and various attacks, including jamming a car into the doorway and firebombing the building.

In 1989, then-Gov. Robert Casey (D) signed the Pennsylvania Abortion Control Act, requiring women to notify their husbands before obtaining abortion care and imposing several other restrictions. Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pennsylvania challenged the law before the Supreme Court, resulting in the decision in Planned Parenthood v. Casey that created a new "undue burden" standard allowing states to restrict abortion as long as the laws are not "too severe" or lack "legitimate, rational justification."

Elizabeth Nash, state manager for the Guttmacher Institute, said, "There was this relief that Casey didn't overturn Roe, but if you go back and read the decision, you see the Court essentially invited additional abortion restrictions," adding, "In a lot of ways, Casey gutted Roe."

Since then, abortion opponents nationwide have used the Casey decision to chip away at abortion rights. In 2011, states enacted 92 restrictions -- three times as many as any year since 1985, when Guttmacher began keeping track. In Pennsylvania, the number of abortion providers fell by 11% from 2005 to 2008, according to Guttmacher. In addition, eight of the state's 22 surgical abortion providers are not approved under new rules passed in 2011 that require clinics offering surgical abortion to be certified as ambulatory surgical centers (Kliff, "Wonkblog," Washington Post, 1/13).