HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) — Republican State Senators in Pennsylvania have introduced a constitutional amendment that would clarify that there is no constitutional right to abortion or taxpayer funding of it in Keystone State.
Senate Bill 956 was introduced by Senators Judy Ward, Kristin Phillips-Hill, Scott Martin, John Gordner, Chris Gebhard, Patrick Stefano, and Senate Majority Leader Kim Ward.
The proposed legislation would amend Article I of the state constitution, the declaration of rights, to “protect the life of every unborn child from conception to birth.” The legislation bans taxpayer funding for abortions.
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In response to the proposed legislation, Governor Wolf issued a statement.
“Since taking office, there have been six different anti-abortion bills introduced by members of Pennsylvania’s General Assembly,” Gov. Wolf said. ”I have vetoed three of those bills placed on my desk for signature and vowed to veto the rest. Yet, members continue to advance additional legislation that would restrict access to abortions in the commonwealth.”
Any proposed constitutional amendment in Pennsylvania would be proposed as a separate ballot question in an upcoming election.
Should the Pennsylvania constitution be amended to say the following?
“The policy of Pennsylvania is to protect the life of every unborn child from conception to birth, to the extent permitted by the Federal Constitution. Nothing in this Constitution grants or secures any right relating to abortion or the public funding thereof. Nothing in this Constitution requires taxpayer funding of abortion.”
The full text can be read below.
The Pennsylvania state constitution has been amended nearly 50 times, most recently in 2021.
Several local and state-wide pro-life organizations applauded the bill on Tuesday.
“The Amendment would also ensure that the people, through their duly-elected representatives, decide such policies, rather than the courts,” said Maria Gallagher, legislative director of the Pennsylvania Pro-Life Federation. “This is a win for the people of Pennsylvania.”
“We thank these senators for this effort to keep public funding out of the abortion business,” said Pennsylvania Catholic Conference Executive Director Eric Failing. “We know that abortion advocates are working hard to remove barriers to making taxpayer money available to those who perform these procedures.”
Democratic state lawmakers say the bill is the latest attempt by Republicans to strip away abortion rights.
“This is about controlling women and childbearing individuals to the utmost and making sure we have no say over what happens to our bodies,” said Senator Amanda Cappelletti (D-Delaware/Montgomery).
“Restricting abortion access will not stop abortions from happening,” says Senator Judy Schwank (D-Berks). “With no other options to an unwanted pregnancy, abortions will just become more dangerous, if not deadly.”
The proposed amendment comes nearly two months since a conservative majority of justices on the U.S. Supreme Court indicated openness to dramatic new restrictions on abortion.
The Supreme Court is considering a Mississippi law that bans abortions after 15 weeks. If the law is upheld, anti-abortion activists said much of the attention would shift to Wisconsin, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Kansas. These are states with Republican legislatures but Democrats in the governorship, each of whom is up for election in November.
If the Supreme Court overturns the Roe v. Wade ruling that women have a constitutional right to an abortion, governors in Michigan and Wisconsin would be powerless to overturn restrictions in their states that were already in place before the 1973 decision.
Democrats remain frustrated that Republicans keep going the constitutional amendment route to circumvent the governor and courts. The proposed bill needs to pass in two consecutive sessions, so the soonest it could be voted on is in spring 2023.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.