by Kristine Howard, D-167
Two bills already introduced and passed by anti-abortion extremists in the legislature this session and a third likely to pass before year’s end are intended to erode the protections of Roe v. Wade the way rust gradually corrodes, and eventually obliterates, iron and steel.
History repeating itself
I was 12 when Roe V. Wade was decided. I don’t remember that historic milestone when it happened, but by the time I reached adolescence I was certainly aware. Last year, when I was running for State Representative, I would occasionally share a story about my early understanding of reproductive rights. While a student at the University of Pennsylvania, I took a course called “Women and the Law”. One of the professors teaching that class was Kathryn Kolbert, who would later successfully argue Planned Parenthood v. Casey before the United States Supreme Court. She argued that case 20 years after Roe, and at that time, it was hard to imagine that leaders in our very own state of Pennsylvania were attempting to restrict a woman’s right to control her reproductive destiny. When that case was decided in favor of Planned Parenthood most of us believed that surely the matter was settled.
Yet here we are in Pennsylvania, 28 years after Planned Parenthood v. Casey, 47 years after Roe v. Wade, still fighting for our reproductive rights. This is not a theoretical matter, or a campaign issue to idly discuss. In the year that I have been in office, the extremist assault on our rights continues with this trifecta of anti-choice legislation. And to make matters worse, what we do in our own state legislature has become critically more important due to recent appointments to the United States Supreme Court creating a majority that has demonstrated a clear bias in opposition to Roe at the national level.
The latest assault
Back in April House Bill 321 was introduced. This bill sought to criminalize an abortion which was chosen because of a diagnosis of Down Syndrome. This bill passed the House, 117 to 76. I was one of the 76 Representatives who voted against the proposed law. As I pushed that no button, I was disheartened that the progress of the past 47 years was being undone. I thought back to the young woman I was in college, thinking that women would control their reproductive lives, that my fellow young women and women to follow could count on the work done by those who fought for our rights before us, long before I cast my no vote.
Just last month, House Bill 1890 was introduced, which would mandate that burial or cremation be done, from the time of conception onward. Many people focused on the terms of the bill focusing on miscarriage. However, since this bill is in effect for an abortion or miscarriage occurring in a health care facility, it is apparent that this is really a way to maintain a registry of all women who choose abortion. That information would be maintained by the Department of Health, and would eventually become public. This is nothing but an attempt to shame and frighten women who for their own reasons, choose abortion. This bill also passed 123 to 76.
Next up apparently is Pennsylvania’s own version of a bill criminalizing abortion as soon as a heartbeat can be detected, approximately six weeks. This so called “Heartbeat Bill” is the outcome of a national movement by pro-life activists to eventually criminalize abortion and effectively negate Roe v. Wade.
At this time, with the radical right majority in control of our legislature, the only thing that stands between us and the systematic dismantling of our reproductive rights in Pennsylvania is the veto pen of Governor Wolf. He has already vetoed the Down Syndrome bill and has indicated his opposition the other anti-choice legislation discussed here.
Governor Wolf is in his final term. Just last week, House Speaker Mike Turzai, the Republican leader of the extremist majority that sets the legislative agenda in Harrisburg, told attendees at the annual Pennsylvania Society event in New York, that he is considering running for Governor in 2022. Those of us who believe in reproductive rights understand just how catastrophic that could be for Pennsylvania women.
I am running for re-election and fighting for a majority that works in Harrisburg to make sure the clocks of destiny in Pennsylvania keep moving forward. In the meantime, I will fight to keep abortion legal, just as the women before fought to bring us the reproductive rights we enjoy today.
Thank you for reading,