The United States Supreme Court has overruled Roe v. Wade. Here’s what that means for residents of Pennsylvania:
Is abortion legal in PA?
The overturning of Roe v. Wade won’t make abortion immediately illegal in the commonwealth.
Current Pennsylvania law allows for abortions to be performed up to the 24th week of the pregnancy. This could be altered, however, by the outcomes of the Pennsylvania governor, General Assembly and even US Senate races this fall.
While Democratic gubernatorial nominee Josh Shapiro has said he would continue Gov. Tom Wolf’s practice of vetoing all bills that restrict abortion, his Republican opponent, Doug Mastriano, has been vocal in his support for rolling back access.
“January 22, 1973 was one of the darkest days in American history. On that day, seven justices of the Supreme Court ruled that the right to life could merely be reduced to a decision of convenience,” Mastriano said in a statement released on the heels of a recent leak that Roe v. Wade would be overturned.
“According to recent statistics from the Department of Health, the African American and Latino populations of Pennsylvania suffer more than half of all abortions in the commonwealth despite accounting for only about 18% of our population.”
Mastriano added that he was proud to reintroduce Senate Bill 378, which would prohibit any abortion once a physician determines that the baby has a heartbeat.
“Once the repeal of Roe v. Wade is official, I am calling on the General Assembly to hold a vote on the Heartbeat bill. The time is now for action to protect the rights of the unborn.”
To override a governor’s veto in Pennsylvania requires a two-thirds majority.
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In the House, this means 135 votes. Republicans hold 113 seats. So any override of a governor’s abortion veto would require significant Democrat support.
If a substantial number of conservatives pick up seats during the mid-terms, Republican-led anti-abortion measures would be more likely to pass.
“Indications are that if Sen. Mastriano were to be elected governor and the Republicans retain control of the General Assembly, legislation limiting women’s reproductive rights would be approved and signed into law,” Nicole Reigelman, a spokesperson for the Pennsylvania Democratic Caucus, said in an email. “Members of the House Democratic Caucus are looking closely at the issue and its possible (long-term) implications and are exploring ways to enshrine women’s reproductive rights in the Constitution as well we protect providers who serve women from outside of Pennsylvania.”
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Conversely, the US Congress could enact legislation to ensure abortion access.
To do so, Democrats would need to expand their slim majority in the House and take control of the Senate. Many see Democratic US Senate candidate John Fetterman as one of their best chances to pick up a seat, as he looks to replace Republican Sen. Pat Toomey.
Fetterman has championed abortion rights while his opponent, Mehmet Oz of the GOP, has campaigned in favor of more limited access.
Do PA residents support abortion rights?
A new Suffolk University/USA Today Network poll indicates that most Pennsylvanians are in favor of abortion rights.
Conducted earlier this month, the poll suggests that 58% want to protect abortion rights and 30% want to restrict abortions. An additional 11% were undecided and 1% refused to answer.
Organizations in Pennsylvania and beyond have pledged continued support for abortion access.
Since 1985, the Abortion Liberation Fund of PA — an extension of the National Network of Abortion Funds — has provided financial and logistical assistance to those seeking an abortion. Executive director Elicia Gonzales said her Philadelphia-based organization routinely assists those who rely upon programs such as Medicaid, which cannot be used for abortion services.
“So we operate a helpline five days a week, and last year gave out just under $667,000 in funding to about 3,200 people in a 10-county region,” Gonzales said. “And then, around 2016, we also recognized that funding abortion care is important but doesn’t go far enough; that we also needed to engage in connecting abortion, access with other racial justice concerns, and so we created a community-organizing arm of our work that is now deeply focused on building community power and fostering community support.”
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Gonzales characterized the impact of abortion limitations or bans as a historic fight that has been ongoing since the inception of the country, and even beforehand — specifically noting that it was once conducted “by birth workers and midwives and doulas, using traditional medicines” – – and noted that the issue would continue to hit minority communities even harder than others.
“This is not new — Black, brown and indigenous communities have faced reproductive oppression since the beginning of this nation through native genocide and slavery and forced sterilization,” Gonzales said. “And so I want folks to continue to center the conversation on those experiences, and not the crisis of Roe going away for folks who have always been able to access abortion care.”
Centering operations in underserved areas of need, and engaging the community for continued internal support, will be absolutely necessary for the future of abortion access for minority individuals, Gonzales said, noting that those involved in similar organizations have real-world experience and understanding of their communities and what they need.
“Much of the way in which we view this work at Abortion Liberation Fund is because of Black leadership within the organization. Even the words that I’ve shared with you today are the creation of Black folks. And we have to continue to follow leadership of Black and brown and indigenous folks,” Gonzales said.
Impact:‘People will travel’: What overturning Roe v. Wade could mean for abortions across state lines
What states will ban abortion?
In America, 22 states have laws that could be used to restrict the legal status of abortion.
Of the 22 certain states to move quickly to ban abortions, 13 have laws in place that are designed to be “triggered” and take effect automatically or by quick state action if Roe no longer applies.
Nine states in this group have an abortion ban still on the books from before Roe v. Wade, while 11 states have a six-week ban that is not in effect, and one state, Texas, has a six-week ban that is in effect. Some states have multiple types of bans in place.
Bruce Siwy is a reporter for the USA Today Network’s Pennsylvania state capital bureau. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at @BruceSiwy.
Reporting from Jennifer Borresen of the USA TODAY was also used in this article.