Seven members of the Pennsylvania Senate Democratic Caucus circulated a memo Friday afternoon taking steps to codify into state law the personal right to make health and reproductive decisions, including the access to safe and legal abortions.
The co-sponsorship memo was released by State Senators Katie Muth (D-Montgomery/Chester/Berks), Amanda Cappelletti (D-Montgomery/Delaware), Lindsey Williams (D-Allegheny), Maria Collett (D-Bucks/ Montgomery), Judy Schwank (D-Berks), Christine Tartaglione (D-Philadelphia) and Carolyn Comitta (D-Chester), according to a statement released Monday by Jeff Cavanaugh on behalf of state Senate Democrats.
“The Supreme Court’s decision on Friday was not made in the interest of the people and shows that our nation’s highest court has a majority led by harmful right-wing special interests,” Muth said. “If we can’t trust the Court to protect the rights of Pennsylvanians, then it’s up to us in the state legislature to uphold our rights to make decisions about our own bodies. We cannot and will never back down in the fight to protect our rights, our bodies and our right to choose.
The legislation follows Friday’s devastating ruling by a partisan Supreme Court that overturned the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision and eliminated the constitutional right to abortion after nearly 50 years, according to Cavanaugh.
“Codifying Roe will go a long way to protecting the right to determine our own bodily autonomy here in the Commonwealth. Currently, the right to make decisions about our own bodies is under threat because extremists refuse to accept the reality that abortion is a necessary and life-saving healthcare procedure,” Cappelletti said. “We must do all we can to protect and even expand access, and this legislation is the first step to achieving that.”
In 1973, the United States Supreme Court ruled in Roe v. Wade that the right to abortion left to individual states was a violation of the right to privacy and equal protection under the law. This ruling provided American women with the reproductive freedoms and personal health choices they deserve as equal citizens.
“Last week’s Supreme Court decision stripped the federal right of millions of Americans to seek lifesaving reproductive health care. Abortion is only legal in Pennsylvania right now because Republican-led anti-choice bills in the legislature were vetoed by the governor. Now is the time to codify Roe into state law to ensure that reproductive health care remains safe and accessible for future generations,” Williams said. “Deciding if, when and with whom to start or grow a family is a human right. I trust people to make the best decisions about their life, family and health care. This legislation is about our right to privacy and our right to bodily autonomy and I am proud to support it.
In the dissenting opinion filed Friday, Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer wrote that “removing a woman’s right to choose to continue a pregnancy does not mean that no choice is made. This means that a majority of today’s court has snatched that choice from women and given it to states. Allowing a state to exert control over one of the “most intimate and personal choices” a woman can make is not just affecting the course of her life, however monumental those effects may be.” .
“After nearly 50 years of case law, we are witnessing nothing less than a rollback of our fundamental rights to bodily autonomy. This move could be devastating for Pennsylvanians, but it doesn’t have to be,” Collett said. “Our legislature must codify Roe v. Wade and ensure safe, legal, and accessible reproductive care for everyone, regardless of income level or other social barriers.”
According to an April 2022 poll by Franklin & Marshall College, which has polled the issue regularly since 2009, only 16% of Pennsylvanians think abortion should be illegal under all circumstances.
“Without Roe, state legislatures across the country will be lining up to restrict, prohibit, or protect access to abortion. Given that only 30% of Pennsylvanians agree with Roe’s reversal, I believe this legislation will do what our constituents expect of us – protect access to abortion,” Schwank said. “We cannot allow the people of this Commonwealth to have personal health care decisions made by a vocal minority.”
Senators all agree that it is up to lawmakers to step up and act to protect women’s freedom of choice.
“While abortion currently remains safe and legal in Pennsylvania, we must take action to keep it that way. women’s rights and women’s choice are fragile,” Comitta said. “Codifying these protections into law is about representing the majority of Pennsylvania voters who believe abortion should be legal, standing up for all women, and say no to an extremist government-mandated pregnancy program.”
The senators indicated that language is currently being drafted to codify the 1973 Roe v Wade protections into Pennsylvania law and will soon be introduced.
“We have just witnessed an unprecedented abrogation of women’s rights in America by militant justices acting against the interests of the majority of Americans. The Pennsylvania Legislature must act now to ensure that we protect women’s rights here in Pennsylvania,” Tartaglione said. “This legislation will guarantee women the right to safe abortions and protect them from government interference in the private decision-making process between her and her healthcare team.”