WASHINGTON Lawmakers in Pennsylvania could pass one of the nations most restrictive anti-abortion billsthis month, banning most abortions at or after 20 weeks and criminalizing a medically accepted technique of aborting a pregnancy.
The Republican-backed legislation has inspired a groundswell of activism, with reproductive rights activists and medical professionals organizing rallies at the government Capitol in Harrisburg and personally lobbying government lawmakers.
Pennsylvanias Democratic governor, Tom Wolf, has repeatedly pledged to veto the legislation as soon as it reaches his desk but its possible Republicans in the government parliament could overrule that veto.
Recent history indicates the bill might pass, although the margin could be small.Whenthe state Senate sent the bill to the Housein February, it passed with only two votes short of the veto-proof majority one Democrat voted for it and three Republicans voted against it.And the House introduced a similar billlast week, a version of which stalled in the Senate after they passed it last June.
Wolf has taken a personal role in advocating against the legislation, comprising events with activists, doctors and women who have had late-term abortionsthat would be restricted if the bill becomes law.
Weve got to keep politics out of the doctors agency, he told The Huffington Post.
In addition to restricting women health care selections, Wolf supposes the bill runs against the states values.
We were founded by William Penn, based on the results of freedom of conscience, and from his time on, we attracted people from all over the world, based on the idea that they came here, and they could make their own, most personal decisions, he told.
Making sure that women continue to have the right to make their own decisions, I belief, is right in line with that tradition. Its a rich tradition, Wolf said.When people are selecting where to go to school or begin their professional lives or where to start their business or household, Pennsylvania has got to show that its open to them. This bill just says the reverse, that you cant construct your own decisions here, this is not a place where we value freedom of conscience.
Almost 20 states have passed laws banning late-term abortions. Pennsylvanias bill runs further by taking a step that reproductive rights groups and medical professionals say is unprecedented: restricting a medically accepted abortion technique called dilation and evacuation.
The provision is similar to lawmakers specifying which medical tools can be used in a surgical procedure, saidSari Stevens, executive director of Planned Parenthood Pennsylvania Advocates, the political limb of the family-planning organization.
There is no other realm of medicine where it would be appropriate for 253 predominantly white male legislators to tell, This is how you practice medicine, Stevens told. We havent discovered any bills with the combination of these two injunctions before, and we belief both to be unconstitutional, and remarkably so when combined together. Its not only an unconstitutional prohibition. It runs farther than many forbids weve seen in the country, if not most.
Lisa Perriera, an OB/ GYN and abortion provider at the Philadelphia Womens Center, said she believes the bill limits physicians abilities furnish the best care for their patients.
It is a safe medical procedure that I know how to do, she told. If a woman is asking me to have a procedure, and thats the right choice for her, who is a legislator to tell me that she shouldnt be able to have that safe medical procedure?
This bill just says … that you cant construct your own decisions here, this is not a place where we value freedom of conscience. Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf
Perriera, who also does advocacy job as a board member of the Womens Law Project, a Pennsylvania-based women rights group, rejected the logic of conservative lawmakers trying to justify abortion restrictions.
These statutes are always couched in accordance with the rules that they are there to construct things safer for women, and this is only malarkey, she told.
Opponents of the bill have protested that lawmakers did not allow public testimony on the legislation, intending medical professionals couldnt furnish their input. Many doctors and medical organizations across the government including the states branch of the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and the Pennsylvania Medical Society have warned against passing the bill.
[ It] specifies a dangerous precedent by legislating specific treatment protocols and would significantly jeopardize the open dialogue within the physician/ patient relationship, the Pennsylvania Medical Societys president wrote in a letter last year.
It just seems like the facts are irrelevant, and this is just, you are familiar with, the die is cast, this bill is going to be passed, and the medical communitys input is just irrelevant to them, Stevens told, describing the lack of transparency on the bill as incredibly shady.
Wolf said he is pretty confident that my veto would be sustained. But given the close margins in the Senate, activists are focusing their attention on government representatives who might swing the vote.
A number of groups are planning to rally at the government Capitol when lawmakers return to conference on March 13, told Perriera, adding that she and other doctors intend to personally lobby legislators.
Even though they dont want to hear what our medical ruling about the said law is, were going to make sure they hear it, she said.
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