Pa. House Votes for Abortion Ban After 20 Weeks

The fast-tracked bill passed after two hours of "strange" floor debate. Governor Wolf said he would veto it.


Governor Tom Wolf at a press conference in April.

The state House approved a fast-tracked bill Tuesday that would ban abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy.

The bill, which now heads to the Senate, passed with bipartisan support.

Governor Tom Wolf said in a statement yesterday that he would veto the controversial bill if it reached his desk. Wolf referred to a press conference earlier this year at which he spoke about the bill alongside women’s rights advocates.

“This legislation would be a step backwards for women and for Pennsylvania,” Wolf said in the statement. “If it passes the house, I urge the Senate to reject it. If this legislation reaches my desk, I will veto it. This is a bad bill for Pennsylvania and we cannot afford to allow it to go forward.”

The bill, which is sponsored by Warren County Republican Kathy Rapp, could potentially imprison doctors who perform abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy, except in the case of medical emergencies. Abortions are currently banned after 24 weeks.

Pa. House Bill 1948 also calls for the end of “dismemberment” abortion, per the bill’s language. Typically referred to as dilation and evacuation, the abortion procedure involves the removal of fetus’ body parts. It’s the most common method of second-trimester abortions, according to Planned Parenthood.

After nearly two hours of emotional floor debate, full of what the bill’s opponents called “strange” arguments, the House voted 132-65 in favor of the bill.

In 1973, the Supreme Court ruled in Roe V. Wade that it is illegal for states to prohibit abortion before fetal viability, the point at which the fetus could potentially live outside the mother’s womb, which typically occurs around 24 weeks.

The bill has garnered opposition from doctors like the state’s Physician General, Rachel Levine, who said that non-genetic fetal abnormalities are typically not diagnosable until about 20 weeks.

“This bill, in fact, punishes women whose pregnancies have complications,” Levine said in a statement in April. “Women and their families, when faced with a devastating diagnosis of a significant fetal anomaly, have the right to make the decision which is appropriate for them, in consultation with their doctors.”

Opponents of the bill took to Twitter last night to voice their opinions.


Follow @ClaireSasko on Twitter.