Local abortion rights activists support Gov. Wolf’s lawsuit

Written by on August 1, 2022

Local abortion rights activists support Gov. Wolf’s lawsuit

By Jay Bradley
August 1, 2022

A lawsuit from Gov. Tom Wolf is seeking to stop a package of proposed amendments to Pennsylvania’s constitution that would deny a guaranteed right to abortion, remove veto power for the overturning of a regulation, and add greater monitoring to elections.

The lawsuit filed to the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania argues that the package is unconstitutional given the inclusion of multiple unrelated proposals in this single vote and the state’s established constitutional right to privacy that encompasses abortion access and the free and equal right of suffrage.

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Measures in the package include explicitly stating that there is no constitutional right to either taxpayer-funding for or any other right relating to abortion, requiring voter ID, empowering the state legislation to cancel regulations without the possibility for a veto, having guernatorical candidates choose their own running mates, and establishing election audits.

Democrat Wolf argues that the passing of the bill by constitutional amendment is in order to subvert the governor’s veto power. Wolf is a supporter of abortion access and has vetoed anti-abortion legislation passed by the state legislature in the past, and similarly opposes expansion of election audits the bill would establish. 

“The Republican-led General Assembly continues to take extraordinary steps to dismantle access to abortion and implement a radical agenda. Frustrated that their legislation may face my veto pen again, they instead loaded multiple unrelated constitutional amendments into ​a joint resolution and rammed the bill through during the budget process,” Wolf said in a published statement.

In another written statement, Republican Senate leaders said the governor’s lawsuit is an attempt to mute the voices of Pennsylvanians. 

Several local lawmakers, including State Sen. Lisa Boscola (D-Lehigh/Northampton) who voted for the package, were not able to comment in time for publication. 

John Kincaid, the Robert B. and Helen S. Meyner professor of Government and Public Service at Lafayette College, said he thinks the governor made a smart move for keeping the abortion issue alive.

“Democrats want to make abortion a major issue in the gubernatorial election, so it’s very clever that the governor has filed this lawsuit,” said Kincaid. “At the same time, he might be successful, because there are a number of issues here that would need to be addressed by the Supreme Court and we have a Supreme Court which has a Democratic majority on it, so the Supreme Court may be sympathetic to the governor’s lawsuit.”

The package, SB 106, passed the first round of approvals on July 8 by a vote of 28-22 in the Senate and 107-92 in the House. To become law, it would need to again pass in the General Assembly in the next session before voters in the state would vote on each measure individually. 

If passed, it may appear on the ballot as early as May 16, 2023 during the primary election. Kincaid said the timing would benefit the proposals’ chances of passing due to historically lower Democratic turnout to vote against the largely partisan issues of voting restriction and monitoring, regulatory safeguarding, and abortion access. 

“The amendment would evidently prevent lawsuits against any ban on abortion,” Kincaid explained. “And that would really reduce the rights of citizens to take cases to court, and I don’t think the Supreme Court court of Pennsylvania will look very favorably on that so I think there’s a couple of issues there where the Supreme Court might really bite on.”

Kincaid said the argument that the measure violates the constitutional provision on right to privacy is questionable due to abortion rights not being clearly explicated within the constitution itself. However, the argument that the package violates the single subject rule for legislation may be a very potent argument for the case.

Ash Turner, social media and outreach coordinator at the Allentown Women’s Center, which provides abortion services and other healthcare procedures, said it has been a stressful time in their office since the federal right to abortion was overturned by the Supreme Court. 

Turner says they are grateful for Gov. Wolf’s action.

“While it’s not something that can guarantee continued access to abortion in Pennsylvania, it’s more than a lot of elected officials have been willing to do,” said Turner. “We’d say thank you to Gov. Wolf for standing behind your values and promising the action that he’s willing to follow through on from what we’ve seen. I know that this is not the end of this. We need every single person who is pro-abortion, pro-choice, to jump into the action.”

If abortion is restricted in the commonwealth, Turner said, the other healthcare services that the clinic provides, such as gender-affirming care, GYN services, medical marijuana, may be at risk due to the loss of revenue. 

“Unfortunately, for an independent clinic like our own, that might mean the complete shutting of our doors,” Turner said. “It’s not looking too bright if restrictions were to come down in Pennsylvania for our clinic, but the employees of the facility are very dedicated and we would all absolutely find some way to continue fighting, if not for those in our state, for those and other states around us.”

Abortion rights are continuing to be debated throughout the country after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that there is no federal right to the procedure, and that legal access is to be determined by state legislatures. Many states have also passed increased monitoring and requirements for voting since the 2020 election.

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