Campaigns & Elections

Opinion: PA’s 2023 election provides a chance to protect abortion for years to come

Planned Parenthood PA PAC Executive Director Signe Espinoza writes that 2023 is not an off-year election.

Four seats on statewide Pennsylvania courts are on the line in 2023.

Four seats on statewide Pennsylvania courts are on the line in 2023. Seng Kui Lim / Getty Images

There are no off years when it comes to abortion rights – and the 2023 election may well be the clearest example yet of how true this assessment is. 

Last year, we lost our federal right to abortion; overnight, the freedom for women to make our own health care decisions was erased. That means that our rights are up for debate every day in the state legislature – and in state courts. We don’t have Roe v. Wade to challenge state laws that ban abortion. When a state legislature outlaws abortion, it’s up to their state courts to determine if it’s in line with their own constitution. Every state is setting its own rules now, and since the Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization decision, 20 states have outright bans or extreme limitations on who can access abortion care and when. 

We can be certain that anti-abortion extremists are preparing lawsuits against our state’s Abortion Control Act, which permits abortion up through the second trimester, albeit with many limitations. Anti-abortion activists are waiting for an opening – just as they did at the federal level with Dobbs – they’re hoping that we aren’t paying attention this time. They’re hoping that they can pack Pennsylvania’s Supreme Court with anti-abortion justices like they did to the United States Supreme Court. 

But we can prevent that by voting in November.

Time after time, when abortion is on the ballot, we win. States – including Pennsylvania – have tried to revoke the right to abortion as a constitutional amendment. Time and again, they’ve lost at the ballot box in referendums. Anti-abortion zealots have lost at the ballot box and on the floors of state legislatures. The right to make your own decisions privately with your doctor and without the involvement of politicians is supported by the vast majority of voters. More than 8 in 10 voters say they believe that abortion should be legal, and more than 1 in 4 women will have one before they turn 40. 

With states surrounding Pennsylvania restricting access, we are expecting a 70%-plus increase in abortion patients next year. Pennsylvania needs to remain a safe place for people to seek abortion care whether they live here, in Ohio or West Virginia, or in the next state that bans abortion. The very origins of liberty and independence are found here in Pennsylvania, and we honor that legacy by being a beacon of bodily autonomy in the region. 

The upcoming election gives us the chance to protect abortion for years to come. Judges in Pennsylvania remain on the bench for a long time, so we don’t have a do-over here. We have to pick the right ones this time – the ones who will stand with us in the fight for our rights. 

Planned Parenthood PA PAC is proud to endorse Dan McCaffrey for Pennsylvania Supreme Court, Jill Beck and Tamika Lane for Superior Court, and Matt Wolf for Commonwealth Court. Our PAC endorses candidates every year, and we take this process very seriously. We know that folks rely on us to look at the records and positions that candidates take to ensure that they will be strong champions of abortion rights, because “good enough” on our issues is no longer good enough. For those who have already experienced barriers to care, it never was. 

Sexual and reproductive health care has been inaccessible for too many people for too long, including people of color, folks living at or near the poverty line, LGBTQ+ Pennsylvanians, young people and those who live in rural communities. There are a mere handful of clinics in this state that offer abortion, and 80% of Pennsylvanians live in a county without one. Travel is expensive, appointments are limited and every existing barrier to health care is compounded by the unnecessary regulations that were written to end abortion. We need our benches filled with justices who won't make the growing crisis of access worse.

These four judges have demonstrated a commitment to respecting your medical privacy and bodily autonomy, and we know they will continue to honor that commitment on the highest benches in Pennsylvania. 

Our rights are on the line this year, and these are the judges we want defending them. If we vote with our body autonomy in mind, there are no other choices besides McCaffrey, Beck, Lane and Wolf. It’s the slate that will be our last line of defense in the fight for reproductive freedom. 

Signe Espinoza is the executive director of the Planned Parenthood PA PAC and Planned Parenthood Pennsylvania Advocates.