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Pa. rules drive virtual abortions, PSU's racial justice pivot, and the heavy hand of county jails

Plus, how to make sure your mail ballot is counted.


A daily newsletter by Spotlight PA

Your Postmaster: Colin Deppen
October 13, 2022
Abortion access, PSU backtracks, jail force, ballot marks, police academy, Crozer injunction, and home movies in public. It's Thursday.

Abortion providers across Pennsylvania are seeing a surge in patients from neighboring states after Roe v. Wade, all while navigating legal restrictions and financial hurdles that make it difficult to open new clinics.

In lieu of new brick and mortar sites, providers are focusing on medication abortions and remote telehealth options to help meet demand.

The governor's race between Democrat Josh Shapiro and Republican Doug Mastriano could decide whether new state abortion limits are codified, but providers say access is unlikely to expand even under a Democrat, due to the prospect of a Republican-controlled legislature.

So they're focused on finding ways to make abortions accessible across the state within the current legal framework.

Read Spotlight PA's full report: Abortion providers focus on expanding telehealth, medication access ahead of the midterms.

THE CONTEXT: Over 85% of counties in the state have no abortion providers, and reproductive health care workers attribute this dearth of clinics to Pennsylvania's strict rules regarding abortion care access, also known as targeted regulation of abortion providers, or TRAP laws.

Those laws make it difficult to financially sustain an abortion clinic in lower-population areas, leading to large abortion access deserts.

Melissa Reed, CEO of Planned Parenthood Keystone, said a majority of patients now seek medication abortion, also known as medical abortion or abortion by pills, in part because it requires less travel.

Providers also are investing in telehealth to make abortion pills more accessible. While state lawmakers previously resisted efforts to provide the pills this way, those efforts were vetoed by Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf, proving the power the executive office holds in this space.


"While the past statements and actions of these speakers are alarming and can elicit strong reactions from our community, we must continue to uphold the right to free speech — even speech we find abhorrent — because Penn State fully supports the fundamental right of free speech."

—Penn State's statement in response to calls for the university to cancel an upcoming "comedy event" with Proud Boys founder Gavin McInnes
Read our complete coverage, plus key dates, campaign finance data, sample ballots & more at our Election Center 2022 website.

Spotlight on the Issues: Where Mastriano and Shapiro stand on:

»  College Funding & Student Debt
»  Energy & Environment
»  Crime & Justice
»  LGTBQ Rights

More issue analyses will be published in the coming weeks. 

A complete listing of Spotlight PA voter guides:  

»  Everything you need to know about mail ballots
»  Your complete guide to the candidates for governor
»  How to vet the candidates on your midterm ballot
»  No constitutional amendments on the ballot, but big ones loom
»  How to serve as a poll worker on Nov. 8
»  These Pa. voters haven't missed a Nov. election for 50+ years
»  How Spotlight PA will cover Pennsylvania's 2022 election

En Español:

»  Una guía básica para investigar a los candidatos
»  Cómo trabajar como trabajador electoral el 8 de noviembre
»  Todo lo que necesita saber para votar por correo
»  Su guía completa de los candidatos a gobernador

Support Spotlight PA's vital election coverage by making a gift now.
» AP: NBC's Fetterman Q&A draws criticism from reporters, viewers
» NBC NEWS: Watch Fetterman's full interview with NBC's Dasha Burns
» PENNLIVE: Watch PennLive's editorial board interview Fetterman
» HAARETZ: Hitler's car at center of 'Pa.'s latest election scandal'
» POST-GAZETTE: Billboards tout GOP support for Shapiro (paywall)

» GOVERNOR'S GUIDE LIVE: On Wednesday, Oct. 19 at 6 p.m. via Zoom, Spotlight PA is hosting a free panel on who the candidates for governor are and how their administrations would impact you. Register for the event here and submit your questions to events@spotlightpa.org

Bird stations in the goldenrod at Gwynedd Preserve, via @noraodendahl. Have an interesting image to share? Send us your photos and art, use #PAGems on Instagram, or tag us @spotlightpennsylvania.
KEY COMMITMENT: The future of a planned Center for Racial Justice at Penn State is unclear. The university allocated no funding for the initiative that was pitched as a key university commitment following protests for greater racial equity in 2020. Spotlight PA's State College bureau reports faculty are pressing university President Neeli Bendapudi for clarity on the future of the project.

'LASTING HARM': Pennsylvania corrections officers routinely use physical force on people who may be unable to comply with orders due to a mental health condition, a WITF investigation found. The outlet reports almost one in three uses of force from 25 county jails during the last three months of 2021 involved a person who was having a mental health crisis or who had a diagnosed mental illness

SIGN AND DATE: In light of the news that the U.S. Supreme Court has vacated a key federal court ruling regarding the counting of undated mail ballots in Pennsylvania, state officials say counties are still expected to tally them, though it's unclear if all will comply. But the best way to make sure your ballot is counted is to follow these instructions from Spotlight PA's complete guide to using a mail ballot.

COP CREDITS: Should police officers have a college education? Pittsburgh Mayor Ed Gainey's administration says maybe not. Gainey plans to waive long-standing higher education requirements for the force as the city struggles to find new recruits, per WESA. The city's Citizen Police Review Board "strongly supports" the college credit requirement, equating it with better policing overall.

HOSPITAL HOLD: The controversial closure of Delaware County Memorial Hospital in Drexel Hill is on hold. WHYY reports a judge told Crozer Health and its parent company this week to suspend "any actions materially altering the present operation" while the court reviews a legal challenge aimed at blocking efforts to eliminate the hospital's few remaining acute-care services.

INDIGENOUS STUDIES: State Rep. Chris Rabb (D., Philadelphia) plans to introduce a bill that would make it free for Indigenous people to attend public universities in Pennsylvania. With similar efforts gaining ground in other states, advocates say the details have proven critical

CULTURAL GUIDE: A nonprofit has created a searchable map of Native territories, languages, and treaties. See which Indigenous lands you're on, from Pennsylvania's Susquehannock territory to that of the Lenni-Lenape.

NOW SHOWING: Dust off your 8mm, Super 8mm, and 16mm home movies and show them to the world at Pittsburgh's Harris Theater on Saturday.

GOLD PLATED: What would you pay for a gold-leaf wrapped hamburger? If you said $99, The Inquirer (paywall) has news you can use.

'MANE EVENT': The best mullet in the USA will be crowned on Oct. 20. Meet the owner of Pennsylvania's prized beaver paddle, Chris Cifelli.

Unscramble and send your answer to scrambler@spotlightpa.org. We'll shout out winners here, and one each week will get some Spotlight PA swag. Answers submitted by 6 p.m. on issue date will be counted.

Yesterday's answer: Sentiment

Congrats to our daily winners: Craig W., John P., Becky C., Irene R., Kevin M., Starr B., Warren D., Jody A., Barbara F., Patricia M., Wendy A., Michelle T., Susan N.-Z., Kimberly D., Elaine C., Marty M., George S., Steve D., Don H., Daniel M., James B., John B., David W., Dianne K., Joel S., Bill S., Ronnee G., Mary Jo J., Jane R., and Stanley J.
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