Pennsylvania Commission for Women Statement on PA House Bill 1948

October 14, 2016

Harrisburg, PA – On June 21, 2016, Pennsylvania’s House of Representatives passed HB 1948, a bill that would restrict abortion rights and ban medical procedures. HB 1948 would ban abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy, and would ban the Dilations and Evacuation (D & E) method of abortion.

This legislation passed the House without public hearings, without input from medical professionals, and without an examination of its constitutionality.

On July 11, 2016, HB 1948 passed out of the Senate Judiciary Committee, and was tabled after first consideration. It is expected to be considered by the full Senate later this year. If passed, this bill would enact some of the most restrictive abortion laws in the country.

HB 1948 prohibits elective abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy, instead of the current federal ban after 24 weeks. The bill contains no exception for rape or incest.

HB 1948 amends Pennsylvania’s criminal code and criminalizes physicians for performing abortions that are permitted by federal law.

HB 1948 also does not contain an exception for fetal anomalies incompatible with life, even though many such anomalies often cannot be discovered until the fetus reaches 20 weeks. The bill would force a woman to carry to term and deliver the fetus, despite the knowledge that the fetus has no chance of survival outside of the womb.

HB 1948 dictates the medical procedures that physicians must undertake in order to terminate a pregnancy by banning the D & E method of abortion, removing the physician’s right to exercise his/her medical judgment. A physician can use an alternate procedure only in circumstances in which the process dictated by HB 1948 would result in the death of the pregnant woman or irreversibly impair a bodily function.

The bill is opposed by the Pennsylvania Medical Society, the American College of Obstetricians & Gynecologists, and many other medical professionals. These professionals recognize that the bill limits and punishes women whose pregnancies have complications. As Pennsylvania Physician General, Dr. Rachel Levine, stated:

“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. Doctors and their patients must be able to make choices about medical procedures based on best practices and standards of care. We need to help women facing difficult pregnancies, not punish them. We need to trust women to make their own choices, not dictate those decisions to them.” (Dr. Rachel Levine, Milford Now).

The Pennsylvania Commission for Women is non-partisan. The Commission desires that laws applicable to citizens in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania be enacted through the proper process, with hearings, and upon consideration of testimony by experts in the field. The Commission aligns with Governor Wolf in opposition to HB 1948, and seeks to protect women and their physicians from unwarranted governmental interference.

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