If passed, Senate Bill 106 sponsored by Sen. David Argall (R-Schuylkill) would amend Pennsylvania’s constitution. SB 106 claims that Pennsylvania’s Constitution grants no rights to abortion, “tax-payer funded” abortion, “or any other right relating to abortion.” This legislation has passed 28 to 22 through Pennsylvania’s Senate and will now be considered by the State House. Because this bill is a proposed constitutional amendment, it must pass through the General Assembly in two consecutive legislative sessions and then receive the majority vote in a ballot referendum. That means the voters of this Commonwealth will be able to vote directly on whether this bill will become law.
Constitutional amendments cannot be vetoed by a Governor. This is unfortunate in the case of SB 106, as Governor Wolf has repeatedly assured Pennsylvanians that he will protect abortion as a form of healthcare in the Commonwealth, and would likely have vetoed this bill if it were not a constitutional amendment.
PCAR supports the full range of reproductive healthcare for all people. We oppose any effort–legislative or otherwise–that restricts or bans reproductive healthcare and abortion care. PCAR strongly opposes SB 106 for this reason. All people—including sexual assault victims—must have access to comprehensive family planning, including options to prevent, continue, or terminate a pregnancy. We oppose efforts to restrict any form of reproductive healthcare, including the critical service of abortion care.
As a coalition working to support victims of sexual violence, PCAR is compelled to confront the actual realities of total abortion bans. The consequences of such legislation would affect:
- An 11-year-old child who becomes pregnant after years of being molested by their parent
- An adult with cognitive disabilities who is raped by a caregiver and becomes pregnant as a result
- A college student who realizes they are pregnant because their partner removed the condom without their knowledge or consent
- A victim of intimate partner violence whose pregnancy escalates their abusive partner’s frequency and intensity of violence and rape against them; for many reasons, this pregnancy also makes it more difficult for the victim to leave
- A trafficking victim who risks their life to end their own pregnancy with no medical assistance because abortion is illegal and their trafficker is threatening to kill them
- A person with medical conditions that make pregnancy or childbirth life-threatening, who unintentionally becomes pregnant
- A person who lacks access to contraceptives, sexual health education, prenatal or postnatal care, or safe conditions for childbirth due to race-based health inequities or poverty.
These situations are not hypothetical to us, the centers we represent, the advocates we train, or the survivors we support. Legislators in Harrisburg who vote to restrict abortion are making very real life decisions for victims like these, without knowing them, their circumstances, or their stories. Victims, their loved ones, and rape crisis centers will be left to pick up the pieces, knowing that without access to safe, legal abortion care, there are survivors who will be retraumataized by this legislation. There are victims who will not heal.
As the Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape, we want to be clear that taxpayer money is not widely used to pay for abortions. Currently in Pennsylvania, public funds are only ever used to pay for abortions in the cases of pregnancies that are life-threatening, or the result of rape or incest. We are compelled to protect current support systems for victims of rape and incest. One important support for some survivors is the ability to financially access an abortion if they become pregnant through rape or incest. SB 106 would allow future laws to end this support.
SB 106 is clearly designed to legitimate abortion restrictions for all Pennsylvanians. This includes those with non-viable or life-threatening pregnancies, and victims with pregnancies resulting from rape or incest.
The majority of Pennsylvanians oppose extreme abortion restrictions. A Franklin & Marshall poll from earlier this year notes that more than 4 out of 5 voters in Pennsylvania believe abortion should be legal in at least some circumstances; more than a third of this group believes abortion should be legal in all circumstances. A majority of Pennsylvanians believe abortion should be legal in all or most cases. What’s more, Pennsylvanians are only becoming more pro-choice over time: compared with polling results from 2009, current voters are more likely to feel abortion should be legal in all circumstances, and less likely to believe abortion should be illegal in all circumstances. In light of these trends, legislation like SB 106 is particularly egregious. These kinds of restrictions undermine the bodily autonomy of Pennsylvanians and also go entirely against what Pennsylvanians want in their Commonwealth.
“The Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape urges you to oppose SB 956 (now SB 106). If passed, this legislation would enshrine in our state Constitution a violation of the rights of Pennsylvanians to pursue reproductive healthcare and codify into law discrimination against pregnant people across Pennsylvania,” PCAR CEO Karen Baker said. “Government-imposed abortion restrictions, including abortion limitations that could result from SB 956’s passage (now SB 106), are yet another violation for victims of sexual violence, and many survivors will be retraumatized.”
All people deserve financially and logistically accessible reproductive healthcare services, including abortion care. Countless global, national, regional, state, and local organizations are working to promote reproductive justice at this time, and to oppose legislation like SB 106 that pushes our society backwards.
Thirteen states have passed extremely restrictive abortion laws in recent months, some of which include total bans. PCAR firmly believes that Pennsylvania should not be a part of this bid to undermine the consent, bodily autonomy, and basic human rights of its citizens.
For more information, contact PCAR’s Public Policy and Legislative Affairs Director Donna Greco at firstname.lastname@example.org or 717-728-9740 ext114, or PCAR’s Chief of Public Affairs Jim Willshier at email@example.com or (717) 712-8815.