New Planned Parenthood ad hits Pa. senators over telemed bill restricting abortion access | Tuesday Morning Coffee

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(*Updated at 9:54 a.m., 5/19/20, to include comment from the campaign of Democratic state Senate hopeful George Scott)

Good Tuesday Morning, Fellow Seekers.

The political wing of Planned Parenthood says it’s launching a six-figure digital and mail campaign, taking a trio of targeted Republican state senators to task for their votes in favor of a bill expanding access to telemedicine that opponents say would have restricted access to medical abortion.

The Republican-controlled chamber voted along party lines last month to send Gov. Tom Wolf a previously approved House bill that would have prevented doctors from prescribing an FDA-approved abortion drug.

Wolf, a Democrat who ardently supports abortion rights, carried through on a promise he made after the House vote, and vetoed the measure days later.

Despite the bill’s defeat, Planned Parenthood Advocates is taking three, vulnerable GOP senators, and a Democrat-turned-independent, to task for their votes in favor of the legislation. The lawmakers are, respectively, GOP Sens. John DiSanto, of Dauphin County; Tom Killion of Delaware County; Scott Martin of Lancaster County, and independent Sen. John Yudichak, of Luzerne County.

“Who limits healthcare in a pandemic?” a woman’s voice asks in a digital spot exclusively obtained by the Capital-Star. “Anti-abortion politicians in the Pennsylvania state Senate.”

During Senate floor debate on the bill, GOP lawmakers pushed back against the notion that the bill was specifically intended to restrict access to abortion, noting that the medication, Mifeprex, was among those included on a list, inserted by the House, of nearly 60 FDA-approved drugs with potential side effects that may require additional attention from physicians.

The language, however, was added by House Health Committee Chairwoman Kathy Rapp, R-Warren, who chairs the lower chamber’s anti-abortion caucus, and who has repeatedly sponsored, or lent her support, to measures severely restricting abortion rights.

The GOP later also criticized Wolf for torpedoing a telemedicine bill in the midst of a health crisis.

“I found it very, very disappointing that the governor,  on philosophical differences, would put the health and wellbeing of rural residents at risk,” Sen. Michele Brooks, R-Warrentold the PA Post, criticizing the idea that women could receive an abortion without seeing a doctor in person. “You [can’t] have an abortion over the internet.”

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The four lawmakers targeted by the Planned Parenthood campaign hold suburban seats that Democrats and their allies believe are ripe for a takeover in November. Yudichak, a veteran blue dog who now caucuses with Republicans, left bad blood in the wake of his defection last November.

In an email, Emily Callen, the executive director of Planned Parenthood Pennsylvania Advocates, said the state needed “leaders who will expand access to basic health care, not attack it to score political points.”

“But during the COVID-19 pandemic, state lawmakers like Senators Martin, DiSanto, and Killion tried to exploit the pandemic by advancing a telehealth bill that restricted access to reproductive health care and safe, legal abortion,” Callen said. “As a result, they effectively tanked a statewide telehealth expansion effort when Pennsylvanians needed it the most. Planned Parenthood Pennsylvania Advocates will invest in a statewide campaign to educate Pennsylvanians on the role their elected officials played in the health care landscape.”

In an email, DiSanto’s campaign manager, Taylor Wamsher, dismissed the ad as “just another lie from Planned Parenthood.

Wamsher also took aim at Wolf and DiSanto’s Democratic opponent, George Scott, accusing the two Democratic pols of “[letting] their abortion on demand ideology deny our constituents the telemedicine they need during this pandemic, compounding their failures after watching thousands of seniors die because their administration did nothing for 2 months to secure and protect nursing homes.”

*In a Tuesday e-mail to the Capital-Star, Chris Walsh, a spokesman for Scott, rebutted Wamsher’s attack:

“When [the telemedicine bill] SB 857 originally came to the floor of the state Senate, it did not include language restricting women’s reproductive rights — and it passed almost unanimously,” he wrote. It’s unfortunate that John DiSanto has decided to join a partisan effort to hijack and ultimately sabotage this critically important telemedicine bill during the biggest pandemic in over 100 years.”

The Pennsylvania Capitol building. (Capital-Star photo by Sarah Anne Hughes)

Our Stuff.
An incomplete review by Pa.’s teachers’ pension fund — spurred by Capital-Star reporting — found $160k in questionable travel spending, Stephen Caruso reports.

In Philadelphia, advocates rallied to get youthful offenders released from the city’s juvenile detention center in the midst of the pandemic, Correspondent Nick Field reports.

Attorneys general in Virginia, Md. and Washington D.C. plan to sue  the EPA for failing to make sure Pa. meets its Chesapeake Bay clean-up targets, Sarah Vogelsong, of our sibling site, the Virginia Mercury reports.

During a briefing Monday, Gov. Tom Wolf explained how PEMA and the Pa. National Guard have responded to the COVID-19 crisisAssociate Editor Cassie Miller reports.

And during a briefing of her own, state Health Secretary Dr. Rachel Levine says a new tracking system will allow for a more accurate tally of COVID-19 fatalities.

On our Commentary Page this morning, a second Trump term will be about as awful as we think it will be, opinion regular Fletcher McClellan writes. And U.S. Rep. Mary Gay Scanlon, D-5th District, writes an open letter to the Class of 2020, exhorting them to take up the mantle of leadership.

Vanessa Garrett Harley, Deputy Managing Director, Criminal Justice & Public Safety and Mayor Jim Kenney discuss preventive initiatives aimed at reducing gun violence and gun trauma (Philadelphia Tribune photo by Abdul Sulayman)

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Members of Philadelphia City Council are skeptical of Mayor Jim Kenney’s plan to hike taxes to fill a COVID-19 hole in the city’s finances, the Inquirer reports.
A local domestic violence hotline in Uniontown says calls went up during lockdown, the Herald-Standard of Uniontown reports.
The Carlisle schools have received $764K in federal stimulus money, the Sentinel of Carlisle reports.
Democratic lawmakers have asked Gov. Tom Wolf to reopen shuttered real estate businesses, the Morning Call reports.

Here’s your #Philadelphia Instagram of the Day:

The state has launched a program adding 13 weeks to unemployment compensation benefitsWHYY-FM reports.
Childcare centers will be the bellwether for how difficult it will be to reopen in the post lockdown economyWPSU-FM reports.
Stateline.org looks at whether the clean energy industry can rebound from the lockdown
President Donald Trump claims he’s taking an unproven anti-malarial drug to combat COVID-19, Talking Points Memo reports.What Goes On.
The House comes in at 11 a.m. today. And here’s a look at the day’s committee action:

  • FINANCE
    Room 205  Ryan Office, 9:30 a.m.

Time TBD: Daily COVID-19 briefing.

You Say It’s Your Birthday Dept.
Best wishes go out this morning to David Taylor, head honcho of the Pa. Manufacturers Association, who celebrates today. Congratulations and enjoy the day, sir.

Heavy Rotation.
Here’s a beachy favorite from Brazilian musician Armandhino that makes us wish we were on some tropical isle someplace. It’s Sol Loiro.

Tuesday’s Gratuitous Baseball Link.
The Baltimore Sun profiles Buck Britton, manager of the Orioles’ AA franchise, the Bowie Bay Sox.

And now you’re up to date.