Democratic State Lawmakers to Propose Constitutional Amendment Protecting Abortion Rights in PA

Pennsylvania state House Rep. Danielle Friel Otten, D-Chester County, is sworn in Tuesday Jan. 1, 2019, at the Statehouse in Harrisburg, Pa. Pennsylvania state lawmakers are ready for the coming two-year session after being sworn in on New Year's Day. The House welcomed 42 new members and seven new senators took the oath of office on Tuesday after winning election in November. (AP Photo/Jacqueline Larma)

By Ashley Adams

July 7, 2022

Democratic lawmakers plan to introduce a bill amending Pennsylvania’s constitution to ensure the state doesn’t interfere with an individual’s reproductive rights.

In the wake of the Supreme Court overturning Roe v. Wade, Democratic state lawmakers are taking a page from their GOP counterparts’ playbook and plan to introduce a constitutional amendment that would protect the right to an abortion in Pennsylvania.

Reps. Danielle Friel Otten (D-Chester) and Liz Hanbidge (D-Montgomery) are proposing an amendment to the state constitution that would protect a person’s right to choose or refuse an abortion, the right to choose or refuse contraceptives, and the right to chose or refuse fertility care. 

“Bodily autonomy and control over reproductive healthcare are central to individual freedom, liberty, health, and economic opportunity. Decisions about a pregnancy belong to the pregnant person, not their state legislature,” the lawmakers wrote in a memo to all House members.

They have not said when they plan to officially introduce the amendment.

Republicans introduced their own constitutional amendment back in January. It proposes amending the state constitution to clarify that there is no right to an abortion or taxpayer funding of abortions within the Pennsylvania constitution. It is currently being considered for vote by the state Senate, and with a GOP majority, it’s almost sure to pass.

To amend the state constitution, a bill has to pass in both the House and Senate in two consecutive sessions. Then it goes straight to a ballot vote. 

Since Pennsylvania’s current constitution went into effect in 1968, voters have rejected only six of 49 proposed amendments that made it to the ballot. Only 14 of those appeared during presidential or gubernatorial election years, races that typically have higher turnouts.

Pennsylvania’s current law on abortion allows for the termination of a pregnancy up to 24 weeks. That does not change with the recent decision by the Supreme Court. Abortion is still legal in the commonwealth.

The Republican-majority state Legislature has repeatedly pushed legislation that would limit access to abortion care. Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf’s veto pen has been the last line of defense in the fight for reproductive rights in the commonwealth.

In the state Senate, a group of Democratic lawmakers plan to introduce a bill that would codify into state law the personal right to make decisions about health and reproduction, including access to safe and legal abortions.

Author

  • Ashley Adams

    In her 16 years in the communications industry, Ashley Adams has worn many hats, including news reporter, public relations writer, marketing specialist, copy editor and technical writer. Ashley grew up in Berks County and has since returned to her roots to raise her three children.

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