Press conference does what a failed motion couldn’t
The bill, which sought to limit abortions after 20 weeks as well as outlawing a specific procedure of abortion, was to be voted on the House floor on Monday, April 11.
That vote didn’t happen because a press conference attended by the Governor Tom Wolf and Planned Parenthood President Cecile Richards spotlighting women who depended on dilation and evacuation abortions, which are targeted by the bill, forced Republicans’ hands and they postponed the vote until at least next month, according to Penn Live.
According to the American Pregnancy Association, dilation and evacuation abortions are performed in the second trimester of pregnancy. A shot is usually administered before the procedure to ensure that fetal death has occurred, and suction, scraping, and direct removal by forceps are used to ensure that all fetal and uterine tissue is removed.
On Monday, April 4, the Republican-controlled PA General Assembly brought HB 1948 out of committee and rejected a motion to postpone a floor vote on Wednesday, April 6 114-73.
Planned Parenthood, a major abortion and women’s health provider in Pennsylvania and across the nation, has voiced opposition to the bill.
“We are opposed to this dangerous, extreme bill which endangers women’s health and interferes between women and their doctors,” Planned Parenthood spokesperson Katy Otto wrote in an email to The Blackfriar Chronicle.
They also said the bill was unique to Pennsylvania.
“This is the first time that we know of that a bill has been introduced that is both a twenty week ban and a method ban,” Otto wrote. “In all of the states where either of these kinds of bills has faced legal challenge, they have been enjoined – I.E. not put into effect – due to a lack of constitutionality.”
Honors physics teacher Capt. Robert Boyce, an outspoken pro-life advocate who helps to organize Malvern’s trip to the March for Life each year, disagrees with Planned Parenthood’s conclusions.
“I think that they don’t understand that the Roe v. Wade ruling wasn’t a constitutional issue per se,” he said. “It was their decision on what the rights of people are. When they say similar bills have been defeated, I think that is a misstatement.”
Boyce said that he also doesn’t believe that those in opposition in the House or the Senate will use constitutionality as an argument against the bill.
“I believe that if it gets past the House and onto the Senate, I think the words ‘This is unconstitutional’ will not be used,” he said. “I think it will be ‘You’re denying women the right to make a choice of their body’ and not constitutionality.”
“If the motion to postpone the vote had passed, we would be voting on it in the middle of June,” Representative Tim Hennessey of the 26 District (Glenmoore, Pottstown) said, “which is in the middle of budget season.”
Hennessey said that he didn’t believe the motion was a political play to have the budget overshadow the bill, given the failure of the legislature and Governor Wolf to agree on a budget for 2016.
“People had said that they wanted time to understand the bill better,” he said. “Do I really think that they would have understood what was in the bill better? Not really, people usually make up their minds quickly on issues like this.”
Boyce, however, said that this was political maneuvering on the part of Governor Wolf.
“I think it was their movement,” he said. “Because as a result, in the last several weeks, many of the people running for the Democratic nomination [in local elections] have added to their repertoire that they are supported by Planned Parenthood, they are pro-choice.”
The Pennsylvania primary is Tuesday, April 26, where elections will be held for the party nominations of Attorney General, Auditor General, and State Treasurer, along with primaries for the President.
“I think the organizations, including our Governor, wanted to move that decision so that these candidates wouldn’t be in contrast if the bill had gone and passed,” Boyce said. “The argument would be ‘I’m for Planned Parenthood’ even though the state said that this aspect of Planned Parenthood is wrong.”
There are over 97 sponsors in the House, including Hennessey. He said that that does not mean the bill is sure to pass however.
“More cosponsors means there’s a greater chance of the bill passing,” he said, “but it doesn’t make it certain.”
Boyce disagreed with Hennessey and said the bill will pass the House. He, however, does not know about if it will pass the Senate.
Planned Parenthood has begun to lobby representatives against the bill.
“We are organizing supporters to call their legislators and urge them to vote against the bill,” the spokesperson wrote. “We are also collecting and sharing stories of people who have had the kinds of abortions that would be banned under this extreme legislation, to show the very real effects such a law would have.”
One such representative who has voiced opposition to the bill is Representative Greg Vitali of Havertown.
“I fully support a woman’s right to reproductive choice,” he wrote in an email to our staff. “I don’t believe the changes to the Pennsylvania Abortion Control act proposed in H. B. 1948 are needed. I will not be supporting this bill.”
Hennessey said his reasons for sponsoring the bill were twofold.
“I sponsored the bill because I felt it was worthy of debate on the House floor,” he said. “I also thought that if a child is capable of surviving outside the womb we shouldn’t tear it up.”
AP Biology teacher Mrs. Anna Geider said that at 20 weeks the fetus is fully developed.
“From what I understand, all the organs and body systems are formed,” she said. “The fetus’s job is basically to grow, and to mature those systems, particularly the lungs and the brain, and it can hear outside of the womb.”
However, Geider said that fetuses are not viable, or can live outside the womb, at 20 weeks.
“We cannot keep them alive that early,” she said. “They cannot maintain their body temperature, their lungs are too immature. They’re very small, and their lungs can’t really function outside the womb.”
According to Geider, the earliest viability is 24 weeks, the current limit under Pennsylvania law with an exception “to prevent either the death of the pregnant woman or the substantial and irreversible impairment of a major bodily function of the woman,” according to the Abortion Control Act passed in 1989 and upheld by court injunction until 1994.
Geider, who is expecting in October, has always wanted to have the baby when she found out she was pregnant.
“I never knew what it’s like to be pregnant and not want to,” she said, “but you definitely feel movement at 15 weeks, and feeling that movement makes it a much more intimate relationship, that there’s a person that’s separate from you.