Anti-abortion advocates flood Harrisburg for first Pennsylvania March for Life

By: - September 27, 2021 1:45 pm

More than a thousand anti-abortion demonstrators gathered on the Capitol steps for the first Pennsylvania March for Life (Capital-Star photo by Marley Parish).

As the Republican-controlled Legislature returned to session on Monday, hundreds of anti-abortion demonstrators gathered in Harrisburg for the first Pennsylvania March for Life.

“We are pro-life,” Senate Majority Leader Kim Ward, R-Westmoreland, said, leading at least a thousand attendees in a chant on the front Capitol steps. “We are pro-life. We are pro-life.”

The March for Life movement started as a response to the 1973 Supreme Court ruling in Roe v. Wade, which legalized abortion in all 50 states. And with a series of legislation aimed at restricting abortion access sitting in the Pennsylvania Legislature, Monday’s event — hosted in part with the Pennsylvania Family Institute, targeted lawmakers who oppose legislation that would limit abortion rights.

“I can confidently say something that has come out of the last year is more energy, more passion, and drive from pro-life supporters,” House Speaker Bryan Cutler, R-Lancaster, said. “Witnessing the world adapt and respond to the challenges of a worldwide pandemic and taking steps necessary to protect our own loved ones has given a generation of Americans a new perspective on what the right to life is truly all about.”

Earlier this year, the House of Representatives passed a Down Syndrome abortion ban and a bill regulating the disposal of fetal remains. They are currently in the state Senate, awaiting a floor vote. Ward, who controls the upper chamber’s voting calendar, told reporters this month that she hasn’t discussed “any of those bills being on the agenda.”

But on Monday, joined by a dozen legislative Republicans and chamber leaders, Ward reiterated her support for restricting abortion rights in the commonwealth and condemned court challenges to protect abortion access in Pennsylvania.

“As the majority leader, I stand with all of you on the side of life,” she told the cheering crowd.

House Republicans have offered new restrictions on abortion providers, including a bill to require that fetuses receive pain medication before an abortion. A similar law in Utah has stumped doctors, who say it is confusing to implement and isn’t backed by science.

Sen. Doug Mastriano, R-Franklin, and Rep. Stephanie Borowicz, R-Clinton pray with attendees at the first Pennsylvania March for Life.

Sen. Doug Mastriano, R-Franklin, is the lead sponsor on a bill that would ban abortion as early as six weeks, which is before most people know they are pregnant. Such bills are often referred to as “heartbeat” bills, but medical experts say the term is misleading because an embryo does not yet have a developed heart at six week’s gestation, the Texas Tribune reported.

State Rep. Stephanie Borowicz, R-Clinton, has repeatedly introduced an identical bill in the House. Both lawmakers were in attendance on Monday, praying with march attendees on the Capitol steps ahead of the event.

Gov. Tom Wolf, a Democrat whose term ends in 2023, vetoed a 20-week abortion ban in 2017 and a bill banning abortion in case of an in-utero Down Syndrome diagnosis in 2019. He and Attorney General Josh Shapiro, a likely Democratic gubernatorial candidate, have vowed to protect abortion rights in Pennsylvania.

“I stand firm in my conviction that so-called ‘pro-life’ policies are actually anti-choice and counter the notion of individual freedom and lack a sound scientific basis,” Wolf said in a statement earlier this month.

On Monday, Wolf called the march “just an anti-woman rally by a different name.”

“They want to remove health care options during pregnancy — a time when so many already can’t access life-saving care,” he tweeted, again vowing to veto what he called “anti-choice” legislation.

After the Republican-controlled Legislature in Texas passed a law that bans abortion after about six weeks of pregnancy, Shapiro filed an amicus brief to support the U.S. Department of Justice’s challenge to the ban.

“The Texas law defies the constitution by attacking women’s rights and is a threat to all American women,” he said in a statement. “It encourages people to go out and sue their neighbors — or even total strangers — for health decisions they have no business interfering with.”

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Marley Parish
Marley Parish

A Pennsylvania native, Marley Parish covers the Senate for the Capital-Star. She previously reported on government, education and community issues for the Centre Daily Times and has a background in writing, editing and design. A graduate of Allegheny College, Marley served as editor of the campus newspaper, where she also covered everything from student government to college sports.

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