Hundreds of protesters rally in Harrisburg on Saturday, May 14, 2022, to promote abortion access. (Capital-Star photo by Marley Parish)
Democratic lawmakers joined physicians and faith leaders in the Pennsylvania Capitol on Wednesday, speaking against a five-part constitutional amendment package that includes language to amend the Constitution to state that it does not guarantee any rights to abortion or public funding for the procedure.
In July, the Republican-controlled Legislature approved the amendment package, Senate Bill 106. It could reach voters as early as May 2023 if it passes again during the next legislative session, which starts in January 2023. A governor cannot veto a proposed constitutional amendment.
Abortion access advocates worry that if the proposal reaches and sees approval from voters, it will lead to an all-out ban in Pennsylvania.
“We need to do work to ensure that the second phase of it does not happen,” state Rep. Mary Jo Daley, D-Montgomery, said during a press conference. “We all have work to do.”
Lawmakers who supported the proposed constitutional amendment package in July said it would give voters power over abortion access in Pennsylvania.
“We’ve seen it in other states,” Lindsey Mauldin, vice president of advocacy and public policy at Planned Parenthood Southeastern Pennsylvania, said. “And we know that this is just the beginning of an attempt by conservative lawmakers to restrict and stigmatize access to sexual and reproductive health care.”
Wednesday’s event came one day after U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., introduced a national 15-week abortion ban, which would supersede state abortion laws.
The Pennsylvania Abortion Control Act currently legalizes abortion up to 24 weeks of pregnancy — unless sought based on the sex of the fetus. Later exceptions can be made for extraordinary circumstances, including when the health of the person giving birth is at risk.
Language for the abortion-related amendment came from a proposal introduced by Sen. Judy Ward, R-Blair, last year. Ward has said the amendment would give the General Assembly and voters power over abortion law.
“This constitutional amendment is completely unreasonable,” Tarik Khan, a nurse practitioner, said. “Make no mistake, SB 106 is about politicians wanting to control women’s bodies. At best, it will be unnecessary interference with my patients’ personal decisions. At worst, it will be deadly.”
Khan added that medical decisions should happen between a patient and their doctor — not lawmakers.
“That right should continue. Nurses and doctors do not want this interference, and neither do our patients,” Khan said, citing a recent poll that shows Pennsylvanians support keeping abortion legal under some or all circumstances. “We must keep politicians and politics out of our exam rooms.”
Faith leaders, such as Rabbi Ariana Capptauber, have said abortion bans violate religious rights.
“Our sages say that the Torah only obligates men and not women in this mitzvah, in this commandment, because it poses danger to the life of a woman,” Capptauber said. “And the Torah would never obligate someone to do something that endangers their life.”
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