Gov. Tom Wolf speaks during a press conference, which discussed the damaging effects of the general assembly’s proposed anti-abortion legislation and reaffirm a commitment to protecting reproductive rights, at Narberth Park on Thursday, May 27, 2021. (Commonwealth Media Services photo)
As some states move to restrict or ban abortion following last month’s U.S. Supreme Court ruling, Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf is looking to protect out-of-state individuals seeking the procedure in the commonwealth.
Wolf — a Democrat and former Planned Parenthood volunteer — signed an executive order on Tuesday ensuring that non-Pennsylvania residents may come to the commonwealth for an abortion and other reproductive health care services without fear of being arrested or detained at the request of another state. The order also ensures that those who helped facilitate travel or assisted with the procedure may not face prosecution unless their actions violate state law, which legalizes abortion up to 24 weeks of pregnancy.
“Here in Pennsylvania, I will not stand for this attack on women and pregnant people,” Wolf said in a statement. “By signing this executive order, I am affirming that individuals seeking and providing reproductive health services are safe in the commonwealth from discipline and prosecution.”
The executive order follows similar moves made by governors in Colorado, Rhode Island, California, and North Carolina. In May, Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont signed a bill protecting medical providers and patients seeking abortion care in Connecticut who travel from another state where abortion is outlawed.
“Everyone, whether a resident of Pennsylvania or elsewhere, deserves access to health care,” Wolf said. “As long as I am governor, I will do everything in my power to protect that right.”
Wolf has vetoed three bills restricting abortion and has promised to strike down additional proposals sent to his desk by the Republican-controlled General Assembly. But as he prepares to leave office in January 2023, and with Republicans looking to maintain control in the House and Senate this November, abortion access could change depending on the results of the 2022 general election.
Attorney General Josh Shapiro, the Democratic nominee for governor, supports maintaining abortion access in Pennsylvania.
“I will not let our daughters grow up in a world where they have fewer rights than their mothers and grandmothers had in Pennsylvania,” Shapiro said in a statement last month. “The stakes in this post-Roe world are clear. Either we’re going to safeguard their right to choose, or it’ll be ripped away with no exceptions.”
Sen. Doug Mastriano, the GOP nominee for governor, has voiced support for a complete ban — with no exceptions — of the procedure. In May, Mastriano said he would call on the General Assembly to vote on legislation prohibiting abortions once fetal cardiac activity is detected.
And after last month’s Supreme Court ruling, he wrote on Facebook: “Life wins.”
Last week, state lawmakers pushed through a last-minute amendment into a proposed constitutional amendment package that — if approved by voters — would state that there is no constitutional right to abortion or public funding for abortions in Pennsylvania.
A governor cannot veto a constitutional amendment, which must pass the Legislature in two consecutive sessions and be publicly advertised before reaching voters, who have the final say on the proposal. This proposal is in its first legislative session, and the state’s existing abortion law remains unchanged.
The proposed constitutional amendments would need to pass the next legislative session again — as early as January 2023 — to appear on the 2023 primary election ballot.
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