Pa. bill to restrict abortions in limbo after veto threat
HARRISBURG — A legislative proposal to place new limits on abortion in Pennsylvania was in limbo Monday after Republicans who control the chamber pulled it from a final vote amid a veto warning from the Democratic governor.
The measure would ban elective abortions after 20 weeks, compared with 24 weeks in current law, and outlaw dilation and evacuation procedures that abort fetuses by removing body parts. The legislation had been on a fast track since it was introduced a little over a week ago.
News of the postponement began to trickle out just as Gov. Tom Wolf and Planned Parenthood national President Cecile Richards warned during a Capitol news conference that the legislation would put women’s health at risk.
“Politicians are the last people who should be making decisions about women’s pregnancies,” Richards said. “This bill doesn’t make women safer. It actually puts them at risk.”
Sari Stevens with Planned Parenthood in Pennsylvania said the proposal would be the nation’s most restrictive abortion law because it combines two elements passed by other states. The change to 20 weeks would add Pennsylvania to about a dozen states have the 20-week limit; its ban on dilation and evacuation has been passed in Oklahoma and Kansas, but those laws were enjoined by the courts.
The Pennsylvania bill’s ban on the dilation and evacuation procedure, termed “dismemberment abortions” in the legislation’s text, would not apply if needed to save the mother’s life or prevent her from suffering the impairment of a major bodily function.
If the bill does make it out of the House, it faces an uncertain future in the Senate, where the Republican caucus has several moderate members who represent suburban districts, where support for abortion rights in stronger.
Wolf repeated his veto threat Monday, calling the legislation a step backward that would “interfere with real lives of real people.”
Senate Majority Leader Jake Corman, R-Centre, was noncommittal on the bill, saying that if the House passes it, the relevant Senate committee will decide first whether to move on it.
Reporters heard about abortion decisions that occurred after the 20 week-period involving fetuses with severe health problems.
Kelsey Williams of Wilkinsburg said she was devastated to learn in February during a 20-week ultrasound that the fetus she was carrying suffered muscle deformities. The proposed changes, she said, “would have stripped me of my choice during such a vulnerable time.”
Karen Agatone, of Doylestown, said she was thrilled to learn last summer that she was pregnant after trying for six months as a newlywed.
A 20-week ultrasound identified severe dwarfism that gave the girl no chance of survival. Agatone decided to undergo dilation and evacuation.
“As painful as it was, we had to accept that she was not meant for this earth,” Agatone said.