Following a Republican success in the senate last month, Pennsylvania might join 20 other states who have all banned abortions after 20 weeks. This is particularly concerning as the current ban in Pennsylvania prohibits abortions after 24 weeks thanks to regulations imposed by Roe v. Wade. Senate Bill 3, as it is currently titled, will now move to the House, which passed a bill, much like this one, last year. Governor Tom Wolf plans to veto the bill. However, the State Senate needs only two more votes to override the seemingly inevitable veto. The bill passed in the senate, 32 to 18.
One of the more “novel” aspects of this legislation is its brazen attempt to restrict doctors from utilizing a medically-approved abortion method known as “dilation and evacuation.” Sari Stevens, executive director of Planned Parenthood Pennsylvania Advocates, has spoken vehemently against this measure, saying “There is no other field of medicine where it would be appropriate for 253 predominantly white male legislators to say, ‘This is how you practice medicine.’”
The GOP Attempts to Quell Scientific Input
What’s worse is that the Senate did not allow public hearings on this legislation, which means that medical experts were not allowed to weigh in on the matter. But this can’t stop activists like Lisa Perriera, an OB/GYN and abortion provider at the Philadelphia Women’s Center who said, “Even though they don’t want to hear what our medical opinion about this law is, we’re going to make sure they hear it.”
Further concerns were raised by Rachel Levine, the Pennsylvania Physician General, who made the point that bills like this “[punish] women whose pregnancies have complications,” as many non-genetic issues aren’t apparent until after 20 weeks. This concern was echoed in the State Senate by Lisa Baker, one of three GOP senators who opposed the bill. Senator Baker gave an emotional speech during debate, recounting her own personal experience of having lost a child to a rare genetic disease.
A Frustrating Turn for Activists Everywhere
A bill like this, which makes no concessions in cases of rape or incest, attempts to dismiss many of the issues that were brought to the fore during the Million Women March that took place earlier this year. As Governor Wolf put it in a recent statement, “[…] millions of women have marched all across the country to make it clear to politicians that they want to retain control and the freedom to make their own health care decisions. This flies in the face of that.”
A variety of different organizations plan on protesting the bill outside the State House on March 13th, where doctors and activists alike will lobby legislators, pushing them to vote in favor of reproductive rights. The stakes will be high at the protests, as many opponents worry that this bill would help lay the groundwork for a complete overturning of Roe v. Wade.
The Light of Reason
As Senator Baker stated in her speech, “Do we really want to convict a doctor of third degree felony punishable by possibly 7 years in jail for maybe offering medically appropriate care.” In the weeks to come, reproductive rights activists hope that Pennsylvania House Legislators will hear reasoning such as this when they vote on SB 3.