A Republican-authored amendment stating there is no constitutional right to an abortion and a bill attempting to take family planning funding away from abortion providers are headed to the Senate for a vote.
Two bills that could potentially allow for severe restrictions on abortion access in Pennsylvania passed the state Senate Health and Human Services Committee along party lines Tuesday, both by a vote of 7-4.
Not surprisingly, both pieces of legislation were met with protest from Democratic committee members.
“Restricting abortion access will not stop them from happening,” Sen. Judy Schwank (D-Berks) said during a Health and Human Services Committee meeting Tuesday. “It will just make them more dangerous.”
Let’s take a look at what both bills could potentially mean for reproductive rights in Pennsylvania.
SB 956 is a constitutional amendment introduced by Sen. Judy Ward (R-Blair) that proposes changing the state constitution to clarify that there is no right to an abortion or taxpayer funding of abortions in the commonwealth.
Ward said the bill was in response to a lawsuit now before the state Supreme Court that seeks to require public funding through Medicaid to cover abortions for low-income women.
Sen. Michele Brooks (R-Mercer), the committee’s chairperson, defended the proposed change, arguing that it would allow voters to decide whether taxpayer dollars should pay for elective abortions.
Democrats disagreed. Schwank called the proposed amendment a “Trojan horse” meant to take advantage of the potential overturning of the landmark abortion case Roe v. Wade, which is currently before the US Supreme Court in a case regarding a Mississippi abortion law.
“Every person has a guaranteed right to the reproductive health care they see fit for themselves and their family,” Sen. Amanda Cappelletti (D-Montgomery) said.
In a statement, Planned Parenthood Pennsylvania Advocates said the proposed constitutional amendment “distorts reality” and added that Pennsylvanians want abortion to be a “safe and legal experience.”
Because SB 956 amends the constitution, it will have to win support in the House and Senate in two consecutive sessions. Then it goes straight to the ballot, effectively bypassing the governor’s veto pen. The earliest Pennsylvanians could vote on the amendment would be spring 2023.
The other bill, SB 152, was also introduced by Ward. It proposes prioritizing public funds for family planning services offered by private hospitals and federally qualified health centers, rural health clinics, and state health facilities. Ward argued the legislation would equitably distribute funds to providers, specifically in rural areas.
The legislation also basically ensures organizations that offer abortions, such as Planned Parenthood, receive no funding.
Cappelletti questioned the true motives behind the bill.
“I will not sit here and stand for this,” Cappelletti said during the committee meeting. “I will not allow the wool to be pulled over our eyes. This bill is not about equity. It is simply about ending abortion care here in Pennsylvania.”
Schwank said the bill would limit access to reproductive health care for many Pennsylvanians and will negatively impact low-income residents and those of color.
Both bills now go to the floor of the Senate for a vote.