Is this the next fight over abortion rights in Pennsylvania? | Thursday Morning Coffee

May 2, 2019 7:15 am

Good Thursday Morning, Fellow Seekers.
We’ve said it once, we’ll say it again: While a conservative U.S. Supreme Court remains a serious threat to reproductive rights, the stakes are even higher in state capitols across the land — including Pennsylvania.

In the absence of judicial action, anti-choice advocates are trying to legislate the medical procedure (and that’s what it is) out of existence.

From unenforceable and unconstitutional Down syndrome bans, and so-called “born-alive” bills, to sham ‘heartbeat bills,’ that would ban abortions before most women even know they’re pregnant, the angles of attack nationwide have gotten ever more creative.

So, thus it was that the Capital-Star’s eagle-eyed Stephen Caruso, who covers the state House, happened across legislation sponsored by Rep. Kathy Rapp, R-Warren, the chamber’s most vocal anti-abortion lawmaker, that appears to open yet another front in the culture wars.

On Wednesday, Democrats began raising red flags about Rapp-authored language that would apparently change the definition of abortion in a bill dealing with “medically challenging” pregnancies.

The concern for House Dems, according to Caruso, is that it could affect IUDs and other forms of birth control. Rapp countered that the bill was all about expanding care for mothers who want time with their grievously ill babies.

As Caruso writes, Rapp apparently sought to change the definition of abortion to reflect updates in technology — which is eerily similar to the language that anti-choice advocates employed when they unsuccessfully tried to ban abortion at the 20th week of pregnancy – instead of the standard 24 weeks of gestation.

Some additional refinements: An earlier version of the bill apparently punished doctors who fail to tell women that there is after-birth care for infants born with terminal illnesses by suspending or revoking his or her license to practice medicine. 

That language led Rep. Dan Frankel, D-Allegheny, to quip that lawmakers “can’t punish our way into quality care.” Which, to be blunt, has never been an impediment for abortion foes before. Rapp later told Caruso that the bill had been amended to remove the harsher language.

The amended bill now says that a ‘healthcare practitioner’ found violating the law “subjects [them] to administrative sanctions,” by his or her licensing board.

You can’t blame Democrats for being jumpy. They justifiably view Rapp with suspicion after her years spent mounting frontal assaults on abortion rights. That includes a Rapp-written amendment to a previously approved Senate bill that would have banned the use of telemedicine for abortions. The language was enough to sink the bill.

Once again, while the U.S. Supreme Court remains a key battleground for the long-term viability of Roe v. Wade (pun utterly intended), it’s the stuff that’s happening under Capitol domes that’s really where it’s at.

Our Stuff.
Elizabeth Hardison leads our coverage this morning with her look at a Senate bill that would help keep more addicts out of prison.
Sarah Anne Hughes finds environmental advocates calling for increased funding for clean water programs.
Capital-Star Washington Bureau Chief Robin Bravender caught up with U.S. Rep. Mary Gay Scanlon, D-5th District, who had some thoughts about the elusive goal of universal health care.
Republican leaders took a victory lap over soaring state revenues. But they still don’t want Gov. Tom Wolf to go spending it all in one place, Stephen Caruso reports. Or, y’know, at all.
We took in a very moving Holocaust Remembrance Day Ceremony that featured some very important people: Holocaust survivors and their descendants. Elected officials were also there.

On our Commentary Page, former state Rep. Chris Ross, a Republican who was so sane he had to retire, urges his former colleagues to consider this alternative to a $500 million bailout of the state’s nuclear power plants.
A bill now before the state House would make building inspections less reliable and more expensive, a long-serving municipal official from Lancaster County argues.

A Pennsylvania lawmaker who compared Sunoco pipeline workers to ‘Nazis’ is facing heat, The Inquirer reports.
PennLive has the results of a candidates’ forum for Harrisburg’s City Council hopefuls.
Pennsylvania needs to work to end bigotry before it becomes ‘normalized,’ Gov. Tom Wolfsaid at that Holocaust memorial service, The Post-Gazette reports.
The Morning Call runs down the state of finances for Allentown’s ‘Neighborhood Improvement Zone’ around the PPL Center.

Here’s your #Philadelphia Instagram of the Day:

WHYY-FM explains why seven Philadelphia schools are still empty five years after they went up for auction.
The closing of a light bulb factory in Elk County will leave 175 people joblessWITF-FMreports.
The International House in West Philly is closing. BillyPenn wonders what will happen to the theater it houses.
The Incline explains how runners at this weekend’s Pittsburgh Marathon will pay tribute to the Tree of Life’s victims and survivors.
U.S. Rep. Scott Perry, R-10th Districthad about $170K on hand in Q1PoliticsPA reports.
The Mueller Report has raised fears of election hacking among state elections reports.
Republicans are rolling their eyes over President Trump’s infrastructure deal with Democrats, Politico reports.
Conservative on the Hill are getting ready for a fight over spendingRoll Call reports.

What Goes On.
9 a.m., Pa. State Police Academy, Hershey: 
A ceremony honoring troopers who died in the line of duty.
11:30 a.m., Susquehanna Twp. High School Library: Auditor General Eugene DePasquale releases the results of an audit of the Susquehanna Township school district.
12 p.m., Capitol Steps: ‘Look Up, Child’ prayer rally.

What Happens on Twitter.

It’s a day on the road for Gov. Tom Wolf.
10:45 a.m., Boalsburg: Wolf outlines plans to bolster rural schools
3 p.m., Monaca: Wolf “celebrates the growth of workforce development programs at the Shell Center groundbreaking”
5 p.m., Pittsburgh: Wolf joins the Pa. Legislative Black Caucus to talk about the ‘Clean Slate’ law.

What Goes On (Nakedly Political Edition).
5:30 p.m.: 
Reception for Rep. David Hickernell
5:30 p.m.: Reception for Sen. Bob Mensch
Hit both events, give at the max, and you’re out a mere $2,150 today.

Heavy Rotation.
Here’s an old favorite from Fountains of Wayne, it’s ‘Hey Julie.’

Thursday’s Gratuitous Hockey Link.
Carolina cruised to a 5-2 win over New York on Wednesday night. The series resumes Friday in Raleigh, where the ‘Canes could close things out.

And now you’re up to date. 

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John L. Micek
John L. Micek

A 3-decade veteran of the news business, John L. Micek is the Pennsylvania Capital-Star's Editor-in-Chief. An award-winning political reporter, Micek’s career has taken him from small town meetings and Chicago City Hall to Congress and the Pennsylvania Capitol. His weekly column on U.S. politics is syndicated to 800 newspapers nationwide by Cagle Syndicate. He also contributes commentary and analysis to broadcast outlets in the U.S., Canada and the U.K. Micek’s first novel, “Ordinary Angels,” was released in 2019 by Sunbury Press.