HARRISBURG, Pa. (Erie News Now) — Recent litigation over the abortion pill, Mifepristone, has raised several questions and concerns, especially for those seeking abortion care. Last week, the Shapiro administration launched a website to help answer those questions and direct individuals to abortion care.
Pro-choice advocates are praising the website, which provides details for Pennsylvania residents and non-residents who are seeking an abortion in the commonwealth. However, expenditures to create and advertise the new website concern some Republican lawmakers.
“Utilizing taxpayer dollars by any politicians for a marquee website for abortion is probably not appropriate,” said State Sen. Kristin Phillips-Hill (R-York) during a budget hearing on Friday. “The Hyde Amendment, and our own state’s Abortion Control Act, it states that no public money shall go toward abortion related care,” she added.
The website provides information and details like where to find a provider and how to plan and pay for an abortion.
Budget Secretary Uri Monson says funding for the website comes from the Office of Digital Content, just like other websites created in the wake of major issues or events, like the East Palestine train derailment.
“My understanding is it was funded through our Office of Digital Content, and it’s no different than when there are any issues that emerge that we get a lot of outreach from constituents to know what the impact is on them, even issues that come out of state,” said Monson. “There was a court decision in Texas that led to a lot of questions about what is available. When there was a train derailment in Ohio, we set up a website to provide emergency information so people weren’t just calling,” Monson added.
Pennsylvania’s Abortion Control Act prevents public dollars from being used for abortion-related care, with exception for the life of a mother, rape or incest. During the hearing, Phillips-Hill questioned Monson about whether the website is a legal expenditure.
“Do you believe that this would apply here as state money is being used to direct women to abortion related services only,” Phillips-Hill asked.
“I believe the site is being used to provide information to the citizens of the Commonwealth. No different than we use websites to provide all kinds of information assistance to the Commonwealth,” said Monson.
Phillips-Hill also questioned how much was spent on advertising and search engine optimization for the website.
“Having been a small business owner, you have to pay a lot to get your business to pop up at that first google search response. Are taxpayer dollars being used to advertise that website and prioritize that google search,” asked Phillips-Hill.
“That I don’t know, I’d have to get back to you on that one,” Monson replied.
The Governor’s Office told Erie News Now that providing information and resources in response to statewide and national issues, like the recent ruling in Texas, is a typical role of their office.