House Committee Approves Abortion Ban

Posted on December 5, 2017

Meghan Eirkson 717.234.3024

House Committee Approves Abortion Ban
Legislation would make Pa.’s abortion laws among nation’s most restrictive

HARRISBURG, December 4, 2017 – The House Health Committee late Monday evening approved legislation (S.B. 3) that would criminalize the safest medical procedure for second trimester abortions and impose a 20- week abortion ban in the commonwealth. The measure would make Pennsylvania one of the most restrictive states in the country for women seeking safe, legal abortions.

Symbolic to the way proponents of the measure have kept opponents in the dark by fast-tracking votes and refusing to hold public hearings, the committee convened for the vote after normal business hours Monday. The committee had only “sunshined” the bill for public notice at the end of the day Friday, when most lawmakers and staff had already left town for Pennsylvania Society in New York City.

“There’s a reason lawmakers who support this bill don’t want to vote in the light of day — because this bill does not protect women; it puts women at risk,” said Meghan Eirkson, Director of Policy, Planned Parenthood Pennsylvania Advocates. “The machinations these lawmakers employed to fast-track this bill and silence patients and medical professionals show just how far they will go to pursue an extreme political agenda to undermine women’s reproductive rights.”

The bill was approved, 16-10, along a party line vote. The legislation now goes to the full House for consideration. If the House passes the measure, it will then go to Gov. Tom Wolf, who has already promised to veto the measure.

In advancing the measure, legislators in both the House and Senate repeatedly have ignored the voices of patients, advocates and medical professionals who have spoken out against the ban in order to fast-track the measure and impede public debate. There still have been no public hearings in the House or Senate, and qualified medical professionals who oppose the measure have not been consulted.

In February, the full Senate voted on the bill only days after it was formally introduced in the chamber and just 48 hours after a contentious committee vote to push it forward despite opposition. The bill flew through the entire Senate legislative process in less than a week.

S.B. 3 is sponsored by state Sen. Michele Brooks, R-Mercer County. Brooks’ bill is substantively identical to legislation (H.B. 1948) introduced last year by State Rep. Kathy Rapp, R-Warren County. Rapp re-introduced her own bill (H.B. 77) this legislative session.

Legislators who continue to push for another law that stands in the way of women and the care they need are ignoring what the public wants. Independent polling shows that Democrats (78 percent), Republicans (62 percent) and Independents (71 percent) agree that this is the wrong issue for their state legislators to be spending time on. (Hart 2015)

Bills far less restrictive than these measures already have been deemed unconstitutional. Last year, the U.S. Supreme Court refused to review a decision permanently blocking Arizona’s ban on abortion at 20 weeks, and courts in Idaho and Georgia recently blocked similar bans. Furthermore, restricting doctors’ ability to choose the medical procedure that is safest for their patient has not been found to be legal anywhere.

Just last month, a federal judge in Texas overturned the state’s attempt to ban the same common abortion procedure targeted here. The court there noted that the Texas ban “intervenes in the medical process” and could force women seeking second trimester abortions to resort to riskier, invasive alternatives.

“The fact that they would spend so much time pursuing blatantly unconstitutional legislation when there are so many other serious issues facing Pennsylvanians shows how out of touch these anti-choice activists truly are,” Eirkson said.

In partnership with the three Planned Parenthood affiliates in Pennsylvania, Planned Parenthood Pennsylvania Advocates, the state public affairs office in Harrisburg, works to achieve maximum public, governmental and media support for reproductive health care – including family planning – by developing, implementing and facilitating a statewide strategy.

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