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Tom Wolf Marc Levy, File/AP Photo

Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf.

February 15, 2017

Wolf, Kenney denounce Pa. Senate's passing of bill to restrict abortions

The Pennsylvania Senate passed last week a bill that would impose new restrictions on abortions, but pro-choice elected officials are vowing to prevent the measure from becoming law.

Gov. Tom Wolf, standing with Mayor Jim Kenney and women's health advocates, held a press conference on Wednesday in City Hall promising to veto the "fast-tracked" bill, which he believes would have a detrimental effect on women's health.

Senate Bill 3, which was passed by a 32-18 vote in the state Senate last Tuesday, would impose a ban on abortions after 20 weeks except in cases deemed necessary to prevent the death of the pregnant woman. The measure would also limit access to one of the safest methods for second-trimester abortions, which medical professionals call "dilation and evacuation" but the bill refers to as "dismemberment."

The bill, sponsored primarily by state Sen. Michele Brooks (R-50th District), does not allow for exceptions for pregnancies caused by rape or incest.

"This legislation would determine viability at five months and six days due to significant medical advancements that can keep a baby that is born at 21 weeks, alive," Brooks said.

Critics call the bill one of the most extreme restrictions on abortion in the country. Wolf criticized the Senate Judiciary committee's approval for a vote after three days of limited debate during which no expert witnesses testified.

"I am promising this veto to demonstrate that Pennsylvania will not play games with women’s health care in our Commonwealth," Wolf maintained. "Simply put, this legislation severely limits women’s ability to make informed and timely decisions about their own health care options. That is not the place of government.”

Echoing Wolf's concerns, Kenney claimed the measure was an attempt to circumvent the U.S. Supreme Court's Roe v. Wade decision in 1973.

“This legislation could be so devastating to women’s health that Republican state legislators refused to allow a single medical professional to testify on the bill,” Kenney said.

Despite those objections, the bill will now be considered in the state House of Representatives, which approved a similar version by a vote of 132-65 last June.

Last month, pro-choice research group Guttmacher Institute released a report that the number of abortions conducted annually in the U.S. has reached its lowest rate since abortion was legalized. According to the figures, 926,200 abortions were reported in 2014.