Internet Explorer 11 is not supported

For optimal browsing, we recommend Chrome, Firefox or Safari browsers.

Pennsylvania Committee Advances Abortion-Banning Amendment

Members of a state Senate committee advanced a constitutional amendment that would declare that residents do not have “any rights relating” to abortion after 11 p.m. on July 7. The amendment also includes a voter ID requirement.

(TNS) — After 11 p.m. on July 7, members of a state Senate committee advanced a constitutional amendment that would declare Pennsylvania residents do not have 'any rights relating' to abortion, as well as a provision to require voter IDs when casting a ballot in the state.

Abortion access advocates have been concerned about this amendment, because a governor cannot veto it. Instead, the GOP-controlled Legislature would need to approve it in two different legislative sessions — this year and next — to get it onto the May 2023 primary ballot. It had originally been in a separate bill, Senate Bill 956, but a portion of that bill was amended into a different one late Thursday.

The bill's sponsor, Sen. Judy Ward, R- Blair, said that this would not ban abortions in the state, and reasserted that the state's Abortion Control Act would remain in place. However, after the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade last month, whoever becomes the next governor of Pennsylvania will decide whether abortion protections remain.

The Senate voted to work past their 11 p.m. curfew to continue voting on parts of the budget, as well as for this committee vote. Senate Democrats initially voted to go past the curfew, but said they were unaware that Senate Republicans — who hold a majority in the chamber — were willing to postpone this vote until the next morning. When Sen. Anthony Williams, D- Philadelphia, motioned to revisit the bill Friday, Republicans rejected it.

"They wanted it tonight, run in the dark of night," said Sen. Vincent Hughes, D- Philadelphia. "This is not a bridge-naming bill that you can decide at the last minute that you forgot to add. This is a constitutional amendment, changing the constitution. They knew throughout the course of the day that this was what they were going to do."

Erica Clayton Wright, a spokeswoman for Senate Majority Leader Kim Ward, R- Hempfield, said Senate Democrats' attempt to backtrack their agreement to work past curfew was disingenuous.

"It was political gamesmanship on the part of the Democrats to try and cut it both ways," Ms. Clayton Wright added.

Originally, Senate Republicans had hoped to approve a $45.2 billion spending plan for the 2022-23 budget, which the House approved earlier Thursday. But shortly after the committee vote, Republicans recessed. They plan to return for a voting session at 9 a.m., President Pro Tempore Jake Corman said on the floor.

Senate Democrats unsuccessfully attempted to get the committee to add some of their legislative priorities to the bill. Democratic members of the Senate Rules committee offered eight amendments — including ones to ban assault weapons in the state or allow law enforcement to remove a firearm from someone who is in immediate danger to themselves or others — all of which Republicans chose not to debate or consider.

"That's what's more offensive," said Senate Minority Leader Jay Costa. "Not only did they set the process forward at 10:30 [p.m.] or so, but when they had the chance to stop it and move it to tomorrow morning, they again stepped up and doubled down on their position to do it tonight."

(c)2022 the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.
Special Projects