A politically charged bill that seeks to restrict abortions in Pennsylvania after 20 weeks, or five months, passed through the House Tuesday, and now heads to the Senate for approval.
It also would criminalize dilation and evacuation abortions (D&E), a second-trimester procedure recommended for women with fetuses with severe medical issues if the mother faces life-threatening complications; it’s performed by dilating the uterus and removing the fetus in parts.
After nearly two hours of floor debate, the measure passed 132-65. All but four Philadelphia County legislators — Rep. John Taylor (R), Rep. Martina A. White (R), Rep. Thomas P. Murt (R), and Rep. Stephen Kinsey (D) — opposed the controversial bill.
In Tuesday’s heated debate, Rep. Jordan Harris (D-Philadelphia) said making the decision is hard enough already for women and families without "government putting our nose … in women’s uteruses."
But supporters say this bill is a necessary step to preventing fetuses from feeling pain during abortion procedures. Congress, meanwhile, is considering a national 20-week ban, according to Planned Parenthood. The nonprofit organization says these bans are part of an agenda to “chip away at abortion access,” targeting abortions by pregnancy term or method, like D&E.
"We must end the inhumane practice of dismemberment abortion," said Rapp, referring to D&E. Rapp has previously sponsored House Bill 1077, which mandated a preabortion ultrasound test.
Gov. Tom Wolf has said he will veto the bill even if the Senate OKs the measure.
"This legislation would be a step back for women," Wolf said at a press conference in April. "This legislation would be a huge step back for Pennsylvania. If this legislation reaches my desk, I will veto it."
If approved, Pennsylvania would join 14 states with 20-week abortion bans: Alabama, Arkansas, Indiana, Kansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Nebraska, North Carolina, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Texas, West Virginia and Wisconsin. But Pennsylvania would be the first in the Northeast to adopt such a measure.
Currently, women in Pennsylvania must receive state-directed counseling and require a 24-hour waiting period before the procedure is performed, according to the Guttmacher Institute. For public employees, insurance policies only cover abortion in cases of life endangerment, rape or incest.