EDITORIAL: Abortion law limits access to care

The York Dispatch
  • The Supreme Court has made the decision not to place undue burden on women seeking abortions.
  • This on the heels of the House passage of bill 1948, which would do just that.
  • We hope the Supreme Court decision gives Pa. lawmakers pause.
  • Regulating clinics out of existence and limiting the allowable terms for abortion is wrong.

We were disappointed to see that the Pennsylvania House this past week voted in favor of tightening restrictions on women seeking to terminate pregnancies. The bill, House Bill 1948, is on its way to the Senate.

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 measure, introduced by Rep. Kathy Rapp of Warren County in April, would ban abortions after 20 weeks, or five months, of gestational growth. The current limit is 24 weeks, or six months.

If the Senate were to approve the measure, Gov. Tom Wolf has promised to veto it — and we applaud him for the stance.

Wolf on Friday sent an email expressing his disappointment with the bill’s passage in the House:

“Unfortunately, the General Assembly chose not to listen to families, doctors, or constitutional experts and passed one of the most restrictive abortion laws in the country,” the email stated.

“HB1948 would force women to carry a pregnancy to term with no chance of survival — and it prohibits a woman's right to have an abortion, even in the case of rape or incest,” the email continued. “Additionally, this bill is unconstitutional because it changes from 24 weeks to 20 weeks the time for an abortion. The Supreme Court has held that a state cannot regulate abortions before 24 weeks.

Supreme Court decision could spell end of Pa. abortion clinic law

HB 1948 was approved 132-65, with all York GOP lawmakers approving the measure. Rep. Kevin Schreiber, D-York City, said he voted against the bill because it would create an undue burden on women in the state and would significantly limit a woman's right to legitimate medical care.

"This is the Legislature injecting itself into a very personal choice," he told political reporter Greg Gross.

Schreiber also noted the GOP-controlled House has not held hearings on the bill, something he said should happen when a far-reaching bill of such magnitude is being considered.

Pa. House sends abortion bill to Senate

On the heels of the state's House approval of the abortion bill, the Supreme Court on Monday struck down Texas’ widely replicated regulation of abortion. Texas had argued that its 2013 law and subsequent regulations were needed to protect women’s health. The rules required doctors who perform abortions to have admitting privileges at nearby hospitals and forced clinics to meet hospital-like standards for outpatient surgery.

The justices voted 5-3 Monday in favor of Texas clinics that protested the regulations as a thinly veiled attempt to make it harder for women to get an abortion in the nation’s second-most populous state.

Justice Stephen Breyer’s majority opinion for the court held that the regulations are medically unnecessary and unconstitutionally limit a woman’s right to an abortion.

Such attempts as those by the state of Texas — and by some Pennsylvania lawmakers — would only put undue burden on women and families who must make difficult choices regarding their health and their pregnancies.