Since 1920, the ACLU has recognized that personal privacy and reproductive freedom are among our most important constitutional liberties. The decision to have an abortion is deeply personal, and is best left to a person, their family, and their doctor. The ACLU was the first national organization to argue for abortion rights before the Supreme Court, and has been a principal defender of those rights since 1973, when the Court recognized the right to abortion in Roe v. Wade.

In spite of the constitutional guarantee to safe, legal abortion care, extremists in the Pennsylvania legislature have worked to restrict abortion services out of existence in the state. Of course, these restrictions fall disproportionately on low-income people, people of color, young people and people in rural areas. Through litigation, advocacy, and public education, the ACLU of Pennsylvania works to ensure that everyone can make the best decision for themselves and for their family about whether and when to have a child, without undue interference by politicians.


Although abortion is legal in Pennsylvania, it can be very difficult to access – and that’s by design. For years, Pennsylvania politicians have led the way in enacting restrictions on abortion. These restrictions have nothing to do with patient health and safety; they are part of a coordinated effort to push abortion care out of reach for as many people as possible.


Patients must receive state-scripted counseling and then face a mandatory 24-hour delay before they can get an abortion. Young people under the age of 18 must get the consent of one parent to get an abortion or appear before a judge to get permission to receive care (called a “judicial bypass”). 

People who are insured through Medicaid are prohibited from using their insurance to pay for their abortion care. Often patients have to delay their procedures while they scrape together the money they need to cover the cost; sometimes, they aren’t able to get an abortion at all.


Not surprisingly, abortion restrictions and bans fall hardest on people who already face barriers to accessing healthcare: people of color, low-income people, young people, people living in rural areas, people with disabilities, and LGBTQIA+ people. Access to care shouldn’t depend on the amount of money a person makes or the type of insurance they have. It shouldn’t depend on where they live or how old they are. Once a person has decided to get an abortion, they should be able to do so in a timely manner in their own communities and they should be treated with dignity and respect while accessing that care. 

Clara Bell Duvall Project

The Clara Bell Duvall Reproductive Freedom Project is a special project of the ACLU of Pennsylvania that focuses on reproductive health and rights. Abortion is one of the most common medical procedures performed today, and it’s incredibly safe. But Clara Bell Duvall’s story reminds us what’s at stake when abortion is pushed out of reach. She died from complications of an illegal abortion in Pittsburgh in 1929, leaving behind five young children who grew up without a mother. One of her children, Linn Duvall Harwell, founded the Clara Bell Dvuall Education Fund in 1979 to ensure that other families would not suffer as hers did. Read more about the Clara Bell Duvall Reproductive Freedom Project.