EDITORIAL: Lawmakers waste time, money trying to erode abortion rights

York Dispatch editorial board
Rep. Kate Klunk discusses concerns as York County Commissioners meet with state lawmakers and poll workers to discuss last weeks election as well as  address necessary improvements needed for future elections, at the York County Administrative Center in York City, Thursday, Nov. 14, 2019. Dawn J. Sagert photo

Republican state legislators are once again wasting their time and taxpayers' money pushing bills designed to limit access to abortion.

Gov. Tom Wolf has already vetoed similar bills and has made it clear that he will do it again.

“Whenever an anti-choice bill comes to my desk, I will veto it,” Wolf said Thursday at a news conference in Philadelphia alongside state House and Senate Democrats as well as advocates from Planned Parenthood.

And yet there are three anti-choice bills floating through the state Capitol.

One bill, sponsored by Rep. Kate Klunk, R-Hanover, would ban abortions on the basis of a prenatal Down syndrome diagnosis. The legislation requires doctors to submit documentation affirming an abortion was not performed for this reason.

More:Wolf again vows to veto any bills that limit abortion access in Pa.

More:Abortion rights battle heads to Supreme Court

More:‘Fetal heartbeat’ in abortion laws taps emotion, not science

Wolf vetoed a similar bill in 2019, saying it was “a restriction on women and medical professionals and interferes with women’s health care and the crucial decision-making between patients and their physicians.” And yet the House passed the bill last week.

Klunk said in a memo seeking support she will continue to push the legislation because “every child deserves and has the right to life and children with Down syndrome are no exception.”

The House last week also advanced a bill that requires health care facilities to pay for burial or cremation of fetal remains after a miscarriage or abortion, regardless of how early in the pregnancy the abortion or miscarriage occurs. Current law addresses burial or cremation of remains after 16 weeks of pregnancy.

The bill specifies that families can still make their own arrangements but must cover the cost, ignoring the fact that any added cost would be passed along to the woman or her insurance anyway.

It also doesn't address miscarriages that occur at home, which is common early in pregnancy, leading some people to question whether it would stop women who have a miscarriage from seeking medical care.

The House passed a similar bill in 2019, but it stalled in the Senate. 

A third recycled bill would use the medically unsound notion of a "fetal heartbeat" to ban abortion as early as six weeks, a point when many women would not even realize they are pregnant. That bill has made it through the House Health Committee but hasn't come up for a vote yet.

Abortion foes have gotten 13 states to enact these bills, although court cases have stopped them from being enforced for now. The bills outlaw abortion as soon as advanced technology can detect the first flutter of tissue that could become a heart in an embryo — not a fetus, because medically an embryo doesn't become a fetus until the eighth week of pregnancy.

Not that medical science really has anything to do with these bills. Medically speaking, the only ones who should be consulted on whether to end a pregnancy are the pregnant woman and her doctor. 

But Republican lawmakers don't trust either the woman or the doctor to do the right thing. The lawmakers want more say in the situation, and they will continue to try to chip away at a woman's right to choose whether or not she gives birth. 

For this legislative session, at least, Wolf has promised to stop them. We can only hope that the next governor will continue to uphold abortion rights, because the Legislature will continue to try to erode them.