The Lead

Suburban Philly Democrat says Turzai ignored her during debate over Down syndrome abortion ban

By: - May 9, 2019 4:03 pm

The Capitol building in Harrisburg (Capital-Star photo)

A freshman lawmaker from suburban Philadelphia has accused House Speaker Mike Turzai of ignoring her and rejecting her request to speak during Wednesday’s debate on a polarizing abortion-ban bill.

Rep. Liz Hanbidge, D-Montgomery, told the Capital-Star that she had stood up and waved her hand to make a motion to send the bill, which would have forbidden abortions based on a Down syndrome diagnosis, back to committee — stalling the legislation.

At the time, the 203-member chamber was considering amendments to the ban bill, co-sponsored by Turzai, R-Allegheny, and Rep. Kate Klunk, R-York.

“I’m pretty big. I’m 6’2, so I’m … hard to miss,” Hanbidge said. “The people at the rostrum next to [Turzai] made eye contact with me, told him I was there, and he would not lift his gaze to look at me. And he ignored me while I stood there for 15 minutes.”

Hanbridge continued to stand until after the day’s voting session ended.

“Why would I allow women’s voices to be ignored?” Hanbidge said. “My colleagues weren’t allowed to vote on the motion and my constituents were silenced. It’s wrong.”

The speaker’s office is charged with running the House during session. Lawmakers may only speak after being recognized by the speaker and given the floor.

Democrats proposed amendments that included funding for social programs for the intellectually disabled. But Republicans ruled them out of order, concluding they were not relevant to a bill amending Pennsylvania’s criminal code.

Hanbidge then rose to propose sending the bill to the House Judiciary Committee, which handles criminal matters. The bill had been originally voted out of the Health Committee.

Turzai did not call on Hanbidge, and the House moved on to another bill. Democrats tried to get the House to reconsider the bill to hear Hanbidge’s motion. That attempt was rejected along party lines.

“Since HB 321 had already had second consideration, [Hanbidge] received the only parliamentary option that was available and her option was the vote on the motion to reconsider,” Turzai spokesperson Christine Goldbeck said. “She got that, it failed.”

Just last week, the House reconsidered a bill to allow a Republican lawmaker to cast a vote they missed.

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Stephen Caruso
Stephen Caruso

Stephen Caruso is a former senior reporter with Pennsylvania Capital-Star. Before working with the Capital-Star he covered Pennsylvania state government for The PLS Reporter.