After taking a record-breaking nine months to finalize last year’s budget—which caused rape crisis centers and domestic abuse advocates to wonder if they could continue providing services–the Pennsylvania Legislature demonstrated they can, in fact, move quickly on issues they believe matter, such as spreading anti-science, anti-woman propaganda in an election year.
To say HB 1948 was fast-tracked is an understatement. The bill was introduced on Friday, and the Health Committee voted on it Monday. It passed by a mostly partisan vote. They explicitly voted against holding a public hearing so they would not have to consider doctors’ testimony.
The bill is now expected to go to the House for a full vote on Wednesday. HB 1948 is sponsored by Rep. Kathy Rapp, who also proposed the 2012 mandatory transvaginal ultrasound bill that would have required doctors to position the ultrasound screen near a patient’s face, and then document whether or not she looked at the screen. (That bill was beat back after former Gov. Tom Corbett notoriously said that women enduring this medically unnecessary procedure “just have to close [their] eyes.”)
Here are 10 facts you should know about the bill that the Pennsylvania Legislature is trying to push into law without a public hearing or input from doctors.
- HB 1948 is anti-science. In her co-sponsorship memo, Rep. Kathy Rapp claims that she knows through “personal experience” that fetuses can feel pain at 20 weeks. Trained scientists, however, do not agree with Rep. Rapp’s speculation. A synthesis of research on the topic conducted by FactCheck.org concluded that the assertion that fetuses can feel pain at 20 weeks “does not stand.”
- By criminalizing pregnancy termination at 20 weeks, AKA abortion, doctors could be forced to deprive patients with unviable pregnancies of standard care, like this Texas woman who was forced to endure the days-long experience of her body expelling the fetus, against her will, because of a similar ban.
- No, there are no exceptions for fetal anomaly in HB 1948.
- Or rape.
- Incoherently enough, HB 1948 includes a “method ban.” Specifically, in addition to criminalizing almost all abortions at and after 20 weeks, it criminalizes the use of a procedure known as D&E (for dilation and extraction).
- That means HB 1948 doesn’t only criminalize abortions for women who are 20 or more weeks pregnant: According to a 2014 report from the Pennsylvania department of Health, 40% of the D&E procedures that were performed that year were in the first-trimester. HB 1948 would criminalize these abortions also.
- Doctors are ethically obligated to treat their patients with procedures that pose the least medical risk—which is why D&E is common. The method ban provision in HB 1948 seeks to force doctors to use a method that is less safe as a way to punish women for having an abortion. Legislatively coercing doctors to use anything less safe than standard care for no medical reason violates the ethical obligations of a physician.
- It is also unconstitutional.
- Governor Wolf issued a statement confirming that if necessary, he will veto this bill. That is temporarily relief. We still need to speak up and let our lawmakers know we will not tolerate these cynical schemes.
- While PA lawmakers waste taxpayer money spreading anti-science, anti-woman propaganda in an election year, what they aren’t doing is supporting bills that actually promote and protect the health of women and families in Pennsylvania, such as bills that address pregnancy discrimination, promote breastfeeding, support equal pay and raise the minimum wage.
We will NOT tolerate this abuse of power. Urge your lawmaker to vote NO on HB 1948 by sending an email. We also urge you to pick up the phone and call your representative. Simply tell them you would like them to vote no on HB 1948.
The Women’s Law Project is the only public interest law center in Pennsylvania devoted to advancing the rights of women and girls.
Text: Tara Murtha