Delaware legislature passes ‘official’ abortion law

 Legislators debate the issue of abortion in Delaware.(Zoe Read/WHYY)

Legislators debate the issue of abortion in Delaware.(Zoe Read/WHYY)

Delaware’s General Assembly has passed legislation that protects a woman’s right to choose. 

A bill that changes language in the state’s abortion laws to match the U.S. Supreme Court abortion ruling, Roe v. Wade.  The Delaware bill passed in the House Tuesday with a 22-16 vote.

“I’m happy, I feel this is the right thing for us to do as the state of Delaware for all women,” said Rep. Debra Heffernan, the bill’s House sponsor.

Currently, Delaware law bans abortion, except for special circumstances. But that law has not been enforceable since the 1973 Supreme Court ruling.

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The legislation passed Tuesday ensures abortion will remain legal in Delaware if Roe v. Wade is ever overturned.

The bill allows abortion before a fetus reaches viability—but allows abortion after viability if a doctor determines its necessary for the health of the mother or if the baby is not likely to survive without extraordinary medical measures.

The bill’s sponsors are majority Democrat, but it gain some Republicans co-sponsors to the legislation.

The bill sparked invested interest from the public, and national pro-life group Susan B. Anthony List spread a campaign to prevent its passage. The group had taken out a radio campaign saying the proposed Delaware law would bring unlicensed and unregulated abortion clinics to the state saying it would permit more Kermit Gosnell type facilities. Gosnell is the convicted Philadelphia physician. He was charged in the deaths of three infants during a late-term abortion.

During the House debate, pro-life supporters sat on one side of the gallery, while pro-choice supporters sat on the other side.

On the floor, legislators against the bill argued the definition of viable is too vague, leaving room for a doctor to perform late-term abortions.  

The debate several lasted hours. Republicans attempted to amend the bill five times, but all were shot down.

“It doesn’t matter how much we dialogue this matter. This bill represents a license to murder period,” said Rep. Joseph Miro, R-Pike Creek.

However, legal experts say the legislation doesn’t change anything about what’s already allowable under federal law.

Gov. John Carney, D-Delaware, said he will sign the bill.

“I think this bill is important so Delaware law conforms with what is constitutionally the law in the USA,” Heffernan said.

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