GOP officials just can’t keep their hands off of women’s rights. Republican lawmakers in Pennsylvania have once again taken a step backward in reproductive health rights by changing the Keystone State’s abortion laws. At least three “pro-life” bills were passed May 25 by the state’s House Health Committee, including the Heartbeat Bill (House Bill 904), the Unborn Child Dignity Act (House Bill 118), and the Down Syndrome Protection Act (House Bill 1500).
“Each of these pro-life bills helps to recognize the humanity of the unborn child,” said Alexis Stefani, communications and policy officer for Pennsylvania Family Institute. While each of the bills allegedly protects unborn children, it disregards the humanity of the pregnant person. But that’s not all: The state has also voted to fine women who miscarry and force them to fill out a form. So not only are women unable to decide whether they would like to have children but should they miscarry, they are expected to face further trauma by having to report it to the state.
While Republicans have attempted to implement multiple anti-women’s choice legislation in the past in Pennsylvania, Tuesday’s passage of the three bills is the farthest they have gotten as of late. Prior to that, former Gov. Tom Corbett signed a law for abortion clinic standards in 2011 and denied abortion coverage through Obamacare in 2013, GoErie reported. The three new bills passed intend to go even further in restricting access to abortions.
The Heartbeat Bill would prohibit abortions after a fetal heartbeat is detected, a point during which many women may not even know they are pregnant. That’s a change from the current legislation that permits abortion until six months or 24 weeks into pregnancy. The new law would have a physician confirm whether a fetal heartbeat is present before the abortion, despite how far along the pregnancy is.
According to ABC News, as of this report, the Heartbeat Bill has over 50 cosponsors in the state’s House of Representatives. This week’s vote by the committee is the first time the long-fought bill has been able to advance.
Under the Down Syndrome Protection Act, abortions after a Down syndrome diagnosis would be illegal.
"We shouldn't allow them to be discriminated against," Rep. Kate Klunk said. "Children with Down syndrome, they lead amazing lives. They are contributing in so many ways, but they need the chance at life to be able to do that." Like others, Klunk fails to respect the autonomy of those who are potentially carrying these pregnancies, and claims that medical professionals are forcing families to abort pregnancies that may have the risk of disability.
The third bill, the Unborn Child Dignity Act, requires healthcare facilities to provide the option of burial or cremation after the loss of a pregnancy. It also requires women to fill out a traumatic form acknowledging their miscarriage. The form is mandatory and comes with a fine for miscarrying the child and a death certificate to indicate the loss—as if the trauma itself was not enough.
The bill was passed by officials under the guise that an unborn child would be treated as a person as opposed to “medical hazardous waste,” according to the Pennsylvania Family Institute.
None of these bills are “pro-life,” as Republicans suggest, because they disregard the life and choice of the person who is pregnant. Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf also reacted to the bills, noting that he has fought against such infringements on human rights since his time in office.
“Throughout my time as governor, I have fought hard against rightwing attempts to limit an individual’s right to make their own health care decisions, including by using my pen to veto every anti-choice bill the Pennsylvania General Assembly has passed,” Wolf said.
“Once again, members are working to pass anti-choice legislation that would undermine the doctor-patient relationship and limit an individual’s right to decide what happens to their body – including re-running appalling bills that I have vetoed in the past.
“I want to be clear: I stand firm in my commitment and support of reproductive rights,” said Wolf, restating his commitment to reproductive rights and determination to veto any bill that violated these rights.
“While members of the legislature continue to play politics around health choices, I will not let the commonwealth go backwards on reproductive rights or access to health care. I will veto any anti-choice legislation that lands on my desk.”
Pennsylvania is not alone in enforcing such anti-choice laws. GOP officials nationwide have attempted to advance their restrictive policies under the guise of “pro-life” for years. Amid the pandemic, Republican officials attempted to ban abortion, claiming it was an unnecessary procedure that could wait as COVID-19 cases piled up. Reproductive rights are fundamental human rights. No one should be coerced or gaslighted into making a decision that may not be what they want for their own body and health.
Policies that ban or limit abortion do not decrease the number of abortions, as some GOP officials believe. Instead, they restrict a woman’s right to her bodily autonomy and increase the number of unsafe abortions and maternal health problems that occur.