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December 18, 2017

Gov. Wolf vetoes 'disingenuous,' 'extreme' GOP abortion bill

Proposed legislation would have made Pennsylvania one of the most restrictive states in the country

Legislation Abortion
Budget Matt Rourke/AP

Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf speaks with members of the media Wednesday, Oct. 7, 2015, at the state Capitol in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.

Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf delivered a promised veto Monday to a Republican abortion bill that would have set a maximum legal window for abortions at 20 weeks, a policy the Democratic governor previously called an "attack on women."

Joined by Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney and other reproductive rights advocates, Wolf struck down Senate Bill 3 just two weeks after the legislators held a vote without seeking any feedback from the public or the medical community. The bill later passed the House by a vote of 121-70.

“This legislation is a disingenuous and bald-faced attempt to create the most extreme anti-choice legislation in the country,” Wolf said. “This legislation is an attempt to criminalize the decisions that women make about their own health care, and this legislation destroys health care options for victims of the horrors of rape and incest. For these reasons, I am vetoing this bill today.”

Roughly 21 states have bans that limit abortions at 20 weeks, most of them citing a medically discredited claim that fetuses are capable of feeling pain at this stage of a woman's pregnancy. The legislation in these states is often modeled on the "Pain-Capable Unborn Child Act" authored by the National Right to Life Committee.

Had Pennsylvania's bill passed, it would have eliminated the second-trimester abortion procedure known as dilation and evacuation, a rare operation that Republican State Sen. Michele Brooks called a "dismemberment abortion" during her advocacy for the legislation.

The bill also would have left no 20-week exceptions for rape, incest, health, or tragic fetal anomalies, barring extreme circumstances.

“I fully support the Governor’s decision to veto this bill,” Kenney said. “The state should not be telling women — particularly women who became pregnant by rape or incest — that they don’t have the right to decide what to do with their body. These women are victims and they should not be victimized again by this law.”

Vocal opponents of the bill included the Pennsylvania Medical Society, which had argued the policy would set a dangerous precedent for limiting specific procedures and would compromise the quality of patient care. The Women's Law Project, calling the bill unconstitutional, argued the bill would have criminalized doctors for providing what amounts to standard medical care. 

With the veto, the maximum legal window for abortions in Pennsylvania remains at 24 weeks.