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November 20, 2023

Pennsylvania politicians seek permanent protections for women who come from out of state seeking abortions

A bill that would codify from Gov. Wolf's 2022 executive order passed in the state House, but it is unlikely to succeed in the Republican-controlled Senate

Government Abortion

The Pennsylvania House of Representatives passed a bill that would protect women who come to the state seeking abortions from being prosecuted where they live. Above, is a file photo from an abortion-rights protest in Erie on May 3, 2022.

A bill that would prohibit Pennsylvania courts from cooperating with other states' prosecutions of people who violate their anti-abortion laws passed the state House 117-86 last week.

House Bill 1786, co-sponsored by state Reps. Mary Jo Daley (D-Montgomery), and Melissa Shusterman (D-Chester), would codify an executive order issued by then-Gov. Tom Wolf in 2022 that protects people who come to Pennsylvania seeking reproductive health care from being penalized by their home states.

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"Access to safe and legal abortion is a serious issue for millions of Americans," Daley, who is chair of the Pa. women's health caucus, said in a statement following the House vote. "With this legislation, we are sending a clear message that Pennsylvania will not be bullied by these states and their attempts to control other people's bodies."  

Shusterman added that women are afraid. "Since the Supreme Court's decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization, an alarming number of states have enacted total or near total bans on abortion because of this decision," Shusterman said. "While we cannot prevent other states from criminalizing abortion, what we can do is protect individuals seeking and providing reproductive healthcare services here in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania."

Earlier this month, the U.S. Department of Justice said Alabama could not use conspiracy laws to prosecute those who help women leave the state for abortions. The DOJ said in its statement of interest filed in Alabama that the U.S. Constitution protects the right to travel to engage in lawful conduct, which would include abortion in a state where it is legal.

Abortion is legal in Pennsylvania up to 24 weeks of pregnancy.

The bill now heads to the Republican-controlled Senate for consideration, where it is unlikely to advance. 

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