The US Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade has given states new authority to restrict abortion rights. While abortion is legal in Pennslyvania for now, Republicans in the state legislature have introduced a number of anti-abortion bills in an attempt to change that.
Republican state legislators Sen. Doug Mastriano and Rep. Stephanie Borowicz sponsored a pair of so-called “heartbeat bills.” The misleading and medically incorrect description has become shorthand for for anti-abortion legislation designed to restrict abortions after 6 weeks, before many people even know they are pregnant.
Dr. Saima Aftab, medical director of the Fetal Care Center at Nicklaus Children’s Hospital in Miami noted that: “At six weeks of pregnancy, an ultrasound can detect a little flutter in the area that will become the future heart of the baby… This means that the embryo is nowhere near as developed as Republican lawmakers would have you believe. Embryos are not classified as fetal until at least 11 weeks into pregnancy.”
Additionally, Republican state legislators Donna Oberlander and Judy Ward have sponsored legislation to amend the state constitution to inclused an outright ban on abortion. Ward has sponsored additional legislation to prevent state entities such as the Department of Human Services from establishing a contract with or making a grant to any entity that performs abortions – and while this bill does not immediately change funding for women’s health services, it does herald the arrival of much stricter legislation, which Ward is vocally in support of.
Democrats in the legislature, however, are attempting to stall or outright block these infringes on human rights, with Governor Tom Wolf has vowed to veto all anti-abortion legislation that lands on his desk. Some, like Democratic Representative Kristine Howard, have sponsored bills intended to codify Roe v. Wade into state law. Sadly, however, due in part to the opposition of legislative Republicans, these bills have remained in limbo since last year. All eyes remain fixed on the upcoming November elections, where abortion rights will be front and center as Pennsylvanians vote in these midterms.