Pa. Senate abortion vote wouldn't survive veto

Staff and wire report

HARRISBURG — The Pennsylvania Senate on Wednesday passed a controversial bill critics say will roll back abortion rights in the Keystone State — but not with enough votes to survive Gov. Tom Wolf's promised veto.

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

After three hours of emotional debate, the Senate voted 32-18, largely along partisan lines, to approve the Republican-backed measure, which would ban abortions after 20 weeks, except in medical emergencies, as opposed to 24 weeks under current law.

The bill now moves to the GOP-controlled House of Representatives, which passed a similar measure last year.

Wolf, a Democrat, has vowed to veto it, saying it is bad legislation for women's rights and interferes with the decision-making relationship between doctors and patients.

Although Republicans in the Senate have enough votes to override a gubernatorial veto, the bill did not pass with a veto-proof majority.

Three Republicans, including newly elected Sen. Dan Laughlin, of Erie County, voted against the measure, while one Democrat, Sen. James Brewster, of Allegheny and Westmoreland counties, voted in favor of it.

Sen. Mike Folmer, R-York and Lebanon counties, said the Legislature often fails to vote through legislation if the governor says he or she won't sign it.

"We're taking our shot," Folmer, a co-sponsor of the bill, said. "If (Wolf) vetoes it, that's his job, and we'll go back to the drawing board."

Sen. Scott Wagner, R-Spring Garden Township, and Sen. Rich Alloway, R-York, Adams, Cumberland and Franklin counties, are also co-sponsors.

Republicans who support the measure said they believe the ban should be pushed back because there have been enough advances in medical science to allow a fetus to be viable earlier than 24 weeks, measured from a woman's last menstrual period — the commonly accepted marker in the medical community.

There is vigorous debate on that question among medical professionals.

Beyond the 20-week provision, the bill would also sharply curtail a procedure known as dilation and evacuation, often used in second-trimester abortions, according to medical experts. The bill itself refers to the procedure as “dismemberment abortion,” although that is not a medically accepted or defined term.

Folmer said the method they're removing is the act of "ripping apart a baby from inside the womb," which he described as barbaric.

— Dispatch reporter David Weissman and The Associated Press contributed to this report.