Editorial: Abortion laws factor into governor's race

York Dispatch

More than a quarter century after Pennsylvania found itself at the center of the seemingly never-ending national debate on abortion rights, the issue is once again front and center in the Keystone State.

As Associated Press reporter Marc Levy’s July 28 story made clear, the upcoming gubernatorial race between incumbent Democrat Tom Wolf and Republican challenger Scott Wagner may well be affected by state-level abortion politics. And the result of that race may in no small part dictate the scope of a woman’s right to choose in Pennsylvania going forward.

More:Abortion politics may shadow final weeks of Pennsylvania governor’s race

Those who wish to see abortion remain safe, available and legal in Pennsylvania must therefore be ready to flex their voting muscle in November.

It’s not like abortion rights haven’t already been under assault in Pennsylvania. Just last year, state Rep. Dawn Keefer, R-Franklin Township, led an effort to make abortions illegal after 20 weeks, down from the current, more reasonable 24 weeks. It also would have effectively banned the common dilation and extraction method of performing the procedure.

More:Keefer wins vacant House seat in 92nd district

As with past such efforts, the bill was whisked through the statehouse with nary a public hearing. No chance for constituents to weigh in. No opportunity to hear from medical professionals, whose views on the matter are shaped more by education than ideology.

More:EDITORIAL: Why no public hearing?

More:EDITORIAL: Pa.'s anti-abortion efforts out of touch

The only thing that prevented this ill-conceived effort to control women’s bodies from becoming law was Wolf’s veto. Those who believe women and their physicians are in the best position to make such personal choices, as opposed to elected officials and their like-minded anti-choice agitators, must keep that in mind come November.

More:Governor vetoes bill to add abortion restrictions

Wagner, recall, not only voted for the 20-week measure before resigning from the state Senate but supports bills that would ban abortions upon detection of a fetal heartbeat —usually around six weeks — and in the case of Down syndrome.

More:Wagner resigning state Senate seat to focus on gubernatorial campaign

So the positions of Wolf and Wagner couldn’t be more opposed. But the stakes get higher.

As Levy reminds readers, by the time voters go to the polls on Nov. 6, conservative Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh may well be on the bench. That strengthens the likelihood that Roe v. Wade, the landmark 1973 decision that has protected abortion rights in the U.S. for 45 years, could be overturned.

More:Editorial: Insist GOP Senate follow court protocol it invented

If that happens, it’s every state for itself. With Wagner in the governor’s chair and Republican majorities in both houses of the state legislature, that would spell broad new restrictions to abortion rights in Pennsylvania — if not their demise altogether.

Ironic that such a scenario could play out in the state that generated the court case that reaffirmed abortion rights a generation ago.

The Supreme Court’s widely anticipated 1992  decision in Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pennsylvania v. Casey upheld Roe’s central tenet that there are limits to a government’s power to force a woman to carry a pregnancy to term. It did so by affirming not just privacy rights, but 14th Amendment protections that cover personal autonomy.

The Casey in that case was, of course, former Pennsylvania Gov. Bob Casey Sr., an abortion-opposing Democrat who had signed harsh new abortion prohibitions into law. (His son, current Sen. Bob Casey Jr., inherited both his father’s party, and his views on abortion.)

More:Sen. Bob Casey hosting town hall in Lancaster

More:Oped: What Kavanaugh could change

Whether the protections reaffirmed in the 1992 Casey decision can survive the probable addition of Kavanaugh to the bench is unlikely. But whether such protections would survive in any recognizable form in Pennsylvania under a Gov. Wagner is certain: They would not.