PA Dems Back Anti-Choice & Pro-Choice Bills – PA Headlines 2/4 Counterpoint PA Jan 2014
A bill coming to the Pennsylvania House would make it harder to access an abortion in the state, while a rival new bill in the Pennsylvania Senate would protect that access. The House proposal would make it more difficult for doctors to get state permission to perform abortions and is so conservative that it mirrors a law recently passed in Texas, while the Senate proposal would stop anti-choice protesters from harassing women seeking abortions at clinic entrances and exits. Iām very sad to report to you that the anti-choice House bill has a Republican cosponsor and a Democratic cosponsor, while naturally the pro-choice Senate bill has no Republican cosponsors.
The anti-choice House bill has yet to be formally introduced, so it does not have a House Bill number yet. The Tribune-Democrat reports that state Representative Bryan Barbin, a Democrat from Johnstown, and state Representative Bryan Cutler, a Republican from Lancaster, are working to recruit more cosponsors for the bill, which would require doctors who provide abortions to get admitting privileges at a hospital. Hospitals only grant admitting privileges to doctors that regularly send them patients, which means most doctors at abortion clinics donāt have admitting privileges, so this would have the potential to greatly reduce abortion access in Pennsylvania.
This radically conservative proposal seems to be modeled after a law that passed in Texas last year. Before the law went into effect, Texas had 34 abortion clinics, but when the law was enacted it caused 12 of the 34 clinics to close. Since then, three of those 12 have reopened as doctors were able to get admitting privileges, but thatās still more than a third of the stateās abortion clinics closed immediately by the law, and barely under a third of the stateās clinics still closed because of it.
That is the grim fate that could be looming for Pennsylvania if this bill is eventually passed and signed into law. Or worse. But thereās also good cause for optimism on this issue in the PA Senate.
Senate Bill 1208, which would ban anti-choice protesters from occupying abortion clinicsā entrances and exits, was introduced on December 11th by state Senator Larry Farnese, a Democrat from Philadelphia. A press release from his office says, āFarneseās legislation creates a buffer zone extending 15 feet from any portion of an entrance to or exit from the clinicās driveway or parking lot. Anyone found guilty of violating the zone would be fined at least $100 or serve no more than 10 days in jail for the first offense, be fined at least $150 or serve no more than 20 days in jail for the second offense and be fined at least $300 or serve between 30 and 90 days in jail for the third offense. All punishments also include the repayment of court costs.ā
These arenāt huge penalties, but the important thing is if this is passed, anti-choice protesters creating a gauntlet of verbal abuse will be arrested for it.
The press release also quotes Farnese saying, āAs someone who has escorted women through a crowd of protesters so they can access their family planning and reproductive health services, I have seen firsthand the verbal and physical harassment and intimidation that they have to endure … The walk from the curb to the clinic door can often be made torturous because of demonstrators.ā Democratic state Representative Matt Bradford from Montgomery is set to introduce a companion bill in the House.
There are two things here that I think are greatly disappointing if not totally surprising to many Pennsylvania progressives. Anti-choice legislation has a Democratic cosponsor, and the supporters of pro-choice legislation are only Democrats. Not the starkest contrast between the parties on an issue, but definitely a contrast.