Pennsylvania House passes ‘shield law’ to protect providers, out-of-staters seeking abortions

HARRISBURG, Pennsylvania (AP) — A bill seeking to protect those who travel to Pennsylvania to get abortions by barring public officials from cooperating with authorities in other states that criminalize the practice advanced Wednesday through the Democratic-controlled House of Representatives.

The legislation passed 117-86. It now goes to the GOP-controlled state Senate, where it faces a chilly reception.

The measure seeks to prevent public officials in Pennsylvania, where abortion is legal up to 24 weeks, from cooperating with authorities in other states who try to block their residents from coming to Pennsylvania to get an abortion.

All but one Democrat voted for the bill, while 16 Republicans joined them.

At least 16 states — the majority of Democrat-controlled states — have adopted laws seeking to protect abortion access since last year. Many of those laws have provisions that protect providers and the people who come from other states seeking an abortion. Though anti-abortion advocates have discussed cracking down on those who cross state lines for abortions, prosecutions of such cases have not been widespread.

Democrats in Pennsylvania hailed the legislation for protecting women in the wake of last year’s Supreme Court ruling that overturned abortion rights.

The bill’s primary sponsor, Democratic Rep. Mary Jo Daley of Montgomery County, said it was sending a clear message “that Pennsylvania will not be bullied by these states and their attempts to control other people’s bodies.”

“I strongly believe that Pennsylvania must continue to pass policies that protect access to abortion and other critical reproductive health care services that people across our nation need and deserve,” she said.

Republicans raised concerns with the constitutionality of the bill, saying the Legislature would overstep its bounds.

Rep. Charity Grimm Krupa, R-Fayette, said that while proponents of the bill were trying to focus it on abortion rights to suit the political climate, it was an affront to the the clause in the U.S. Constitution stating states have to respect the judicial process of others.

“Everybody in this room swore an oath to uphold the Constitution,” she said. “If you vote in the affirmative on this bill, regardless of your position on abortion, you are ignoring your oath. You’re throwing that oath in the trash can. I refuse to do that.”

Planned Parenthood PA Advocates Executive Director Signe Espinoza thanked the Legislature for the step, saying the measure would protect patients from “other states enforcing their extremism within our borders.”

“Everyone is entitled to make their own decisions about their health care, without fear of retribution or prosecution,” she said.

Democratic Gov. Josh Shapiro has positioned himself as a defender of abortion rights. He recently severed decades-long ties with Real Alternatives, an organization that talked women out of having abortions.

Rights to abortion factored heavily in the state’s recent Supreme Court race, and, nationally, have buoyed Democrats at the polls after the country’s highest court overturned Roe V. Wade last year.

Some of Pennsylvania’s neighboring states have sought to protect access to abortion, but those from states where abortion rights have been curtailed have come to Pennsylvania at greater rates seeking services. In the wake of the Dobbs decision, centers in Allegheny County in Western Pennsylvania saw steep increases in appointments by women in West Virginia and Ohio, where voters recently approved an amendment to protect abortion access.