Pa. Senate and House approve amendment declaring that abortion is not a constitutional right
The bill — Senate bill 106 — must pass the legislature in two sessions and be publicly advertised before it goes to voters.
The Pennsylvania Senate and House passed a bill Friday that would ask voters to amend the state constitution to declare that there is no right to abortion in Pennsylvania, and no guarantee that taxpayer funding can be used for abortions.
The package, approved two weeks after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, draws from a bill introduced by state Sen. Judy Ward (R., Blair County) last year.
The Senate on Friday passed the constitutional amendment bill with a vote of 28-22, pushing it to the state House of Representatives, which approved the measure late Friday night.
The bill — Senate bill 106 — must pass the legislature in two sessions and be publicly advertised before it goes to voters. That means next year is the earliest the amendment question could appear on the ballot.
The vote comes two weeks after the Supreme Court decided there was no constitutional right to abortion in the United States, kicking decisions about abortion rights to state legislators. Pennsylvania is now one of several Republican-controlled state legislatures across the country that has since moved to limit abortion access.
In Pennsylvania, abortions are governed primarily by the Abortion Control Act. The amendment does not change that law; any new abortion-related laws would still need to be passed by the legislature and signed by the governor. Some components include abortions being banned after 24 weeks of pregnancy, a 24-hour waiting period, requiring parental consent for those under 18, and requiring consultation discussing risks and alternatives.
Gov. Tom Wolf has vetoed bills that have come across his desk that would restrict abortion rights and vowed to do so as long as he was governor. But a governor cannot veto a constitutional amendment.
Under current law, state funds can only be used to perform abortions in cases of rape or incest, or if the pregnant person’s life is in danger.
While the new bill does not specify if there were exceptions where state funding could be used for abortions, it declares there is no right granted by the commonwealth’s constitution to taxpayer-funded abortions.
Politicians on both sides react
Lt. Gov John Fetterman, the Democratic Senate nominee, called Republican lawmakers out for the late-night maneuver to advance the constitutional amendment.
His Republican opponent, Mehmet Oz, has said he opposes abortion except in cases of rape, incest, or to protect the life of the pregnant person.
Similarly, Attorney General Josh Shapiro, the Democratic gubernatorial nominee, wrote on Twitter that the only way to keep abortion legal in Pennsylvania was to vote for him over Republican gubernatorial nominee state Sen. Doug Mastriano.
Mastriano is staunchly against abortion, having sponsored a six-week abortion ban and saying he would sign it into law as governor if given the opportunity.
Mastriano has also said he believes life starts at conception.
While abortion-rights advocates decried the amendment package as an attack on pregnant people’s health and an attempt to remove an inalienable right, its supporters argued that abortion was not a constitutional right to begin with.
The bill’s sponsor, Republican Majority Leader Kim Ward of Westmoreland County, argued during debate that the amendment maintains the state’s “status quo” on abortion but prevents the Pennsylvania Supreme Court from expanding abortion rights.