How the ACLU is fighting abortion bans in other states. And what that means for Pa. | Friday Morning Coffee

November 1, 2019 7:06 am

State Rep. Stephanie Borowicz, R-Clinton, speaks during a news conference in the state Capitol on Oct. 21, 2019

Good Friday Morning, Fellow Seekers.

In a building practically filled to bursting with terrible ideas, few are so terrible as two emanating out of the Republican-controlled House of Representatives.

This week, the House Health Committee advanced legislation mandating the burial or cremation of fetal remains. Abortion rights advocates say the bill would likely increase the cost of abortions, the Capital-Star’s Stephen Caruso reported this week.

And barely 10 days ago, anti-abortion Republicans in the House and Senate announced legislation that would ban abortion as soon as doctors are able to detect a fetal heartbeat. That can happen at as early as six weeks, which is before most women even know they’re pregnant.

Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf, a Democrat, has promised to veto any bill that reaches his desk. But abortion opponents have made it clear that they’re waiting out Wolf — who’s term-limited out of office in 2022.

The bills are part of a systemic attack on abortion access nationwide. Opponents are organized, and encouraged by a conservative Supreme Court.

But allies are highly motivated as well.

(Patrick Feller/Flickr)

Fresh off a court win in Alabama, where a federal judge blocked that state’s near-total ban on abortions, the American Civil Liberties Union is taking its fight into other states. And while it could be a while before a Pennsylvania ban is being litigated in court — if ever — the ACLU’s hard line on keeping the procedure legal in all 50 states should be some source of solace for abortion rights supporters.

“Across the country, politicians have created a web of medically unnecessary, politically-motivated restrictions that push abortion care out of reach for many, but particularly for low-income people, young people, and people of color,” Alexa Kolbi-Molinas, of the ACLU’s Reproductive Freedom Projectwrote in a recent op-Ed. “Since 2011, state legislators across the country have passed 479 such restrictions, leaving increasingly vast areas of our country with few or no abortion providers at all.”

Among those states was Pennsylvania, which tightened its rules in 2013 under Republican Gov. Tom Corbett. The law, passed in the wake of the Kermit Gosnell scandal, held abortion clinics to the same standards as outpatient surgery centers — even though the clinics effectively met such standards already.

That assault on access has continued with unsuccessful pushes for mandatory ultrasound examinations under Corbett; a vetoed 20-week ban under Wolf, and a House-passed ban on abortions based on a diagnosis of Down syndrome in each of the last two, legislative sessions.

As we (and others) have pointed out in the past, and as Kolbi-Molinas does in the ACLU’s op-Ed, anti-abortion lawmakers rarely show the same concern for child welfare outside the womb as they do when fetuses are still in the womb.

“Instead of criminalizing health care, interfering with personal decisions, and substituting political agendas for the expertise of health care professionals, our politicians should be doing everything they can to ensure people can have healthy pregnancies and healthy deliveries, to ensure that people can raise their families in safe communities, without fear of violence, wanting for food or shelter, access to childcare, jobs, and education,” Kolbi-Molinas wrote. “That would be more than a victory—it would be justice.”

But justice requires vigilance. And that’s where allies such as Kolbi-Molinas and others come in.

“Despite strong public support for safe, supported abortion care, these politicians hope that the balance of the Supreme Court has turned against abortion rights with enough votes to aggressively and systematically dismantle abortion access,” Kolbi-Molinas wrote. “Not on our watch.”

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Our Stuff.
Elizabeth Hardison leads our coverage this morning, explaining how the Pa. Corrections Department could be on the hook for $1.2 million in legal fees stemming from a lawsuit over prisoner mail.

Stephen Caruso has all you need to know about those Pa. Bar Association ratings for statewide judicial candidates.

Sarah Anne Hughes explains how voting will be different in 2020 now that Gov. Tom Wolf has signed a sweeping election reform bill.

Pa.’s Democratic U.S. House delegation voted to greenlight the impeachment inquiry of President Donald Trump, Washington Bureau Chief Robin Bravender reports.

A U.S. House committee advanced a major higher education overhaul on Thursday. The bill includes measures sponsored by U.S. Rep. Susan Wild, D-7th DistrictCapital-Star Washington reporter Allison Stevens has the story.

From our partners at the Philadelphia Tribune: Philly City Council voted Thursday to reform the process for selling city land, and sent the bill to Mayor Jim Kenney. And an ex-Starbucks regional manager claims the coffee giant discriminated against white employees after wrongful arrests.

On our Commentary Page, website privacy options aren’t much of a choice since they’re hard to find and use, two Carnegie Mellon University scholars opine. From our partners at the Central Voice, a reminder that acceptance comes in many different forms.  And ahead of next Tuesday’s referendum vote, Lancaster County’s elected district attorney explains why Pa. needs Marsy’s Law.

(Image via Flickr Commona)

Philly Dems
 are eyeing up a purge of party officials who disobeyed bylaws by backing non-Democrats in next Tuesday’s election, PhillyClout reports.
After one of them swallowed a city bus this week, Pittsburgh City Paper has everything you need to know about sinkholes — from an expert.
The ex-wife of Dauphin County Commissioner George Hartwick faked a black eye, a former friend tells PennLive.
The Morning Call explains the relationship between local traffic and your vote for Northampton County Council.

Here’s your #Pennsylvania Instagram of the Day:

WHYY-FM also explains why it’s so hard to figure out whom to vote for in judicial races. looks at how one part of the country is fighting ‘Meth 2.0,’ reports.
Roll Call explains how the Trump White House is taking up a Clintonesque approach to its impeachment messaging.WolfWatch.
Gov. Tom Wolf
 heads to Philly for a 1:30 p.m. rally against that ‘heartbeat’ abortion ban bill. The rally for reproductive rights happens at 1:30 p.m. in Mayor Jim Kenney’s Reception Room at City Hall.

What Goes On (Nakedly Political Edition).
Bucks Co. hopefuls Robert Loughery and Gene DiGirolamo hold a 5 p.m. reception at a private residence in Ivyland, Pa. Admission runs $1,000 to $5,000.

You Say It’s Your Birthday Dept.
Have a birthday you’d like observed in this space? Shoot us an email on [email protected].

Heavy Rotation.
Here’s a 1990s classic. From Primitive Radio Gods, it’s ‘Standing Outside a Broken Phone Booth with Money in My Hand.’

Friday’s Gratuitous Hockey Link.
There were two dramatic O/T wins on Thursday night. Calgary came back to beat Nashville 6-5while Montreal rallied to beat Vegas 5-4.

And now you’re up to date.

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John L. Micek

A three-decade veteran of the news business, John L. Micek is the Pennsylvania Capital-Star's former Editor-in-Chief.