Bill to limit Pennsylvania abortions voted out of committee

    Democratic state lawmakers are denouncing the speedy consideration of a plan to restrict abortions in Pennsylvania.

    The measure has prompted a swift veto threat from Gov. Tom Wolf, but Republicans pressed ahead on Monday, setting it up for a vote in the GOP-controlled House.

    The plan would change the state’s current ban on abortions more than 24 weeks into a pregnancy, reducing the legal window for abortions in Pennsylvania by four weeks, making the 20-week-mark the new limit. The measure would also limit the use of a method of abortion known among doctors as dilation and evacuation, but referred to by abortion opponents as “dismemberment.”

    Planned Parenthood Pennsylvania says the bill would curb access and eliminate the “safest medical procedure” for legal second trimester abortions.

    • WHYY thanks our sponsors — become a WHYY sponsor

    Supporters say the changes would limit the pain felt by an unborn child during an abortion.

    “It’s a violent death,” said Rep. Judy Ward, R-Blair, on Monday, shortly before a key panel sent the measure to the full House for consideration. “If this happened to animals, people would be outraged. I had someone in my office today upset about pigeon-shoots. These are babies.”

    Democrats criticized Republicans for fast-tracking the bill, which was not made public until Friday afternoon. It was passed by the House Health Committee on Monday.

    “This process, sadly, has been an abomination,” said Rep. Michael O’Brien, D-Philadelphia. He joined other Democrats who urged, unsuccessfully, for a public hearing on the bill before putting it to a vote.

    Rep. Kathy Rapp, R-Warren, the proposal’s sponsor, argued that the issue had already been vetted by other legislative bodies.

    “It’s not an issue that has not been discussed in other states and in our nation,” said Rapp.

    The measure has prompted opposition from the Pennsylvania Medical Society and the Pennsylvania Section of the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.

    A spokeswoman for the GOP-controlled Senate said she is not aware of the chamber’s plans for the legislation, should it pass the House.

    Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

    Together we can reach 100% of WHYY’s fiscal year goal