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Pictured: Councilmembers Helen Gym, Kendra Brooks & Jamie Gauthier
The comprehensive package is a 3-part legislative agenda to address abortion protections in several levels of governance. Photo: Carlos Nogueras/AL DÍA News

Philadelphia won’t sit and wait: Local officials unveils legislation to defend abortion seekers in the city

Councilmembers Helen Gym, Kendra Brooks, and Jamie Gauthier delivered a joint speech outlining the central propositions of a comprehensive legislative package.

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Under the crisp rays of the midday sun on Wednesday, Sept. 14, Philadelphia City Councilmembers Helen Gym, Kendra Brooks and Jamie Gauthier unveiled multiple pathways in which they seek to further safeguard abortion providers and seekers in the area. They were also joined by Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner, who offered brief and pointed remarks. 

Wednesday’s press conference also included speeches from Kelly Davis, of New Voices for Reproductive Justice, and Dr. Alhambra Frarey, a gynecologist and abortion provider at Penn Medicine, where she is also a faculty member. 

Details of the full package will be released tomorrow when it is introduced in the City Council meeting. 

Gym takes on privacy laws

The city’s package contains three bills that would activate several parts of government protection that are currently subject to legal scrutiny. The first of the three is privacy protections, which seeks to limit the information the city is able to share for the purposes of a civil suit or a lawsuit. Under this measure, City Council will restrict the use of city resources to divulge information surrounding the medical procedure.

“We have a responsibility right now more than ever to promote clear messaging to individuals in our city and beyond,” said Gym, adding that the City will also commit additional funding to support clinics. 

Gym’s message also cited new protections for providers, a group caught in the crossfire between government regulations and legal repercussions that have rapidly surfaced as Republican states move to penalize different forms of reproductive care. 

“The end of federal protections for the right to an abortion means cities like ours, cities like Philadelphia that support bodily autonomy and human dignity are jumping into action,” said Gym, followed by a mention of the work done at the local level in the aftermath of the Roe v. Wade reversal. 

“Hands off,” says Gauthier

A second measure, authored by Councilwoman Jamie Gauthier, gives patients and abortion providers the right to countersue if out-of-state individuals or groups bring forth a lawsuit for seeking care. Patients and providers will also be empowered to seek compensation for damages should they be subject to a lawsuit. Gauthier emphasized abortion seekers would be protected from “vigilante lawsuits” brought forward by “out-of-state actors,” creating a legal avenue for individuals without the means to battle in the courts. 

“We won’t stand by and let anti-choice residents of other states and other so-called pro-life heretics control what goes on in our city,” said Gauthier. 

Limited legal precedent leaves a murky outlook for matters brought to the courts, but new legislation establishes frontline protection from neighboring states that opt to prevent any form of cooperation for abortion seekers. 

“To healthcare providers: know that you will be protected from predators seeking to stop you from giving patients the care they need,” Gauthier added. 

Kendra Brooks backs workers

The third and last piece of the legislative package is aimed at workplace protections to prevent employer retaliation by way of an update to anti-discrimination laws. Brooks is the first Working Families Party member to be elected to Council. 

Employers are not legally obligated to either protect or penalize workers for seeking abortions, but they could also be caught in hot water from states looking to punish those who “aid and abet” reproductive healthcare. 

For companies, employees become a scapegoat when employers are subpoenaed to request information relating to medical services. Brooks’ measure is a landmark move to establish guardrails for businesses that have no way of navigating the complicated legalese dynamic behind out-of-state lawsuits. 

“Whether someone is seeking an abortion, fertility assistance, or birth control, decisions related to reproductive health will be protected from workplace discrimination and retaliation in Philadelphia,” said Brooks.  

The city’s move mirrors Governor Tom Wolf’s own Executive Action emitted in July, which also places limits on information sharing, Commonwealth resources, and any form of collaboration with out-of-state investigations. 

For Pennsylvania, City Council’s actions could lay the groundwork to further codify abortion under Commonwealth law by closing loopholes that spook seekers and providers alike by opening up Pandora’s box of lawsuits from states that hope to ban abortion altogether. 

“One of the things we’re gonna do is establish some sort of legal precedent. I think we’re going to be affirming new, expansive areas around privacy in particular,” Gym told AL DÍA, and emphasized the legislation will touch on new territory to close current legal loopholes. 

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