Contentious Abortion Bill Moves Quickly Through PA Senate

Feb 7, 2017

HARRISBURG (WSKG) -- A state Senate committee has advanced an abortion bill that would ban the procedure after 20 weeks gestation, as opposed to the current 24 weeks.

Credit Katie Meyer

As expected, the panel's vote largely broke down across party lines, with 10 Republicans outvoting five Democrats to move the measure forward.

Supporters cited medical advances that have made fetuses viable as early as 20 weeks. Detractors countered that late-term abortions are generally conducted because of severe medical issues.

Democratic Senator Lisa Boscola of Lehigh County--the only woman on the committee--shared she's had five miscarriages, and would have loved to have a child.

But she said she still believes a woman's right to choose is fundamental.

"I would never ever put this on any other family to make a decision--right or wrong--about what they should do with their bodies," she said.

The bill also criminalizes a procedure it dubs "dismemberment abortion."

That's not a medically-accepted term, and Democrats have raised concerns it could be conflated with a common late-term abortion procedure, called "dilation and extraction."

Boscola said such provisions are overreach.

"I've never seen anything like that," she said. "In surgical procedures, you're not going to tell a doctor what tools they can use to fix a heart valve. But for some reason, we're trying to dictate what tools a doctor can use during a pregnancy. That's just insane."

Democrats also objected that no public hearings were held on the bill, but Republicans said such calls were merely an unnecessary delay tactic.

Last session, a version of the same plan withered away in the Senate under threat of veto from Governor Tom Wolf.

Wolf reaffirmed his position Monday, calling the proposal "radical and unconstitutional."