Pennsylvania abortion law unlikely to budge |
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Megan Tomasic

Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf has vowed to veto any anti-choice bill that crosses his desk as a wave of new laws limiting abortions floods the country, but his pledge is not stopping state Republicans from working to pass stricter laws.

The Pennsylvania House of Representatives passed a bill this month that would ban abortions for the sole purpose of a prenatal diagnosis of Down syndrome, jumping off previous legislation that bans abortions simply to select the sex of a baby.

Under current law, a woman may receive an abortion up to 24 weeks into her pregnancy. Before an abortion is performed, however, there must be a 24-hour period between meeting with a physician for state-mandated counseling and the procedure. Abortions can be performed later than 24 weeks in Pennsylvania if a woman’s health is in danger.

Illinois lawmakers Tuesday moved to strengthen abortion rights.

Members of that state’s House voted 64-50 to pass a bill that would rescind bans on some late-term abortions and end criminal penalties for doctors performing abortions, the Associated Press reported.

The governor of neighboring Missouri last week signed a bill that bans abortions beyond eight weeks of pregnancy, except for cases of rape or incest, the AP reported.

That was one of six states to adopt tougher restrictions or bans on abortion — a list that includes several places in the Deep South and one Pennsylvania neighbor.

A new law in Alabama bans abortions all together. Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi and Ohio passed bills that do not allow abortions past six weeks, or when doctors can typically detect a fetal heartbeat.

On Wednesday, the Louisiana state legislature passed one of the country’s strictest abortion bans, advancing a bill barring the procedure once there’s a detectable fetal heartbeat, as early as the sixth week of pregnancy. Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards said he will sign the bill.

South Carolina has moved forward with a heartbeat bill that would result in a $10,000 fine or two years in prison for doctors who perform abortions after six weeks, reported The State in Columbia, S.C. Tennessee is working to pass similar legislation.

The strongest, and first, law to outright ban abortion, according to The New York Times, came from Alabama — which does not account for cases of rape or incest but does include exceptions if a mother’s life is at risk. Any doctor who performs an abortion faces a felony charge that carries up to 99 years in prison if convicted.

A lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union and Planned Parenthood aims to block the law, which will take effect in November unless blocked by a judge.

Over the years, a slew of abortion-related legislation has been proposed in Pennsylvania’s House of Representatives, including an attempt to outlaw abortions at 20 weeks. That bill passed in the House and Senate but was vetoed by Wolf in December 2017.

State Rep. Stephanie Borowicz, R-Clinton, proposed a heartbeat bill in February but still must find a co-sponsor before it can be presented to the House.

“This legislation will be another great rallying cry for us to save babies around this state and possibly around the nation,” Borowicz wrote in her proposal.

Pennsylvania is one of six states — along with Florida, Massachusetts, New York, Nevada and Rhode Island — that allows abortions up to 24 weeks. More than 20 states have more lenient time rules.

The U.S. Supreme Court in 1973 ruled in Roe v. Wade that abortions are legal until the fetus reaches viability, between 24 and 28 weeks.

“There are bills floating around in other parts of the United States — Georgia, Alabama and even here in Pennsylvania — anti-choice bills that seek to place a politician between a woman and her doctor when it comes to one of the most important medical decisions she’s ever going to make,” Wolf said in a recent video posted on Twitter. “I just want you to know, that if such a bill were to ever come to my desk, I would veto it.”

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