Abortion-related bill set for vote in Pa. Senate committee

Associated Press

A key Senate committee is expected to vote Monday on legislation that would place new, stricter limits on abortion — without having held a public hearing or seeking any input from the state’s medical community.

Karen (last names were not used) tells the story of her and her husband's decision to have an abortion due to serious complications during her pregnancy after the 20th week, a decision other women may not be able to make if a Republican sponsored Bill becomes law, Monday April 11, 2016. 
John A. Pavoncello photo

The Senate Judiciary Committee, chaired by Republican Sen. Stewart J. Greenleaf of Montgomery County, will be voting on whether to ban abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy — except in medical emergencies — instead of 24 weeks under current law.

The measure also calls for sharply curtailing medical use of a procedure known as dilation and evacuation, which is used in second-trimester abortions and which the bill’s supporters refer to as “dismemberment abortions,” a term not medically recognized.

No public hearing will be held before the vote, the committee’s executive director, Patrick Cawley, said Friday.

The bill, which Republicans supported in the last two-year legislative session, has received significant pushback from medical organizations in the state, as well as women’s groups and members of families who have had to make difficult decisions, for medical reasons, about continuing a pregnancy.

Opponents have called it an unabashed attack on a woman’s right to abortion. In a letter last year, the Pennsylvania Medical Society’s then-president wrote: “We are highly concerned that the bill sets a dangerous precedent by legislating specific treatment protocols.”

Greenleaf did not return calls seeking comment. Neither did the bill’s sponsor, Republican Sen. Michele Brooks of Mercer County.

Said Jennifer Kocher, spokeswoman for Senate Majority Leader Jake Corman, R-Centre: “There is an interest in our caucus to see this bill progress.” She would not say whether Corman supports a public hearing on the issue.

In an interview Friday, Sen. Daylin Leach, the ranking Democrat on the Judiciary Committee, said legislative supporters couldn’t even answer basic questions about the bill last year.

Anti-abortion demonstrators arrive on Capitol Hill in Washington, Friday, jan. 27, 2017, during the March for Life. The march, held each year in the Washington marks the anniversary of the 1973 Supreme Court decision legalizing abortion. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

“This is not about trying to find the best public policy — it’s about pushing an extreme right-wing religious agenda to subjugate women,” he said.

Gov. Tom Wolf, a Democrat, said he plans to veto the bill if it lands on his desk. View the bill here.

The bill passed the Republican-controlled House of Representatives last year, receiving 132 votes in its favor — close to the threshold of withstanding a gubernatorial veto. It cleared Greenleaf’s committee late last year, but the Legislature’s two-year session ended before it came up for a floor vote. There also was no public hearing last session.