Before breaking for the summer, the Pennsylvania Senate and House advanced Senate Bill 106. This bill would make it possible for elected officials to pass laws that violate the bodily autonomy and reproductive freedom of Pennsylvanians and restrict their access to safe, legal abortions. The bill proposes an amendment to Pennsylvania’s State Constitution as follows:
“This constitution does not grant the right to tax-payer funded abortion or any other right relating to abortion.”
PCAR supports the full range of reproductive healthcare for all people. We oppose any effort that restricts or bans abortion. As such, we are deeply concerned about this legislation and its harmful impacts.
Make no mistake. SB 106 opens the door to a complete abortion ban in the Commonwealth. A constitutional amendment would jeopardize existing laws that govern and protect abortion access in Pennsylvania. If passed, this bill will be used to block individuals’ access to abortion care in cases of rape or incest and to violate the bodily autonomy and reproductive freedom of all pregnant Pennsylvanians.
We’re also concerned by the misinformation surrounding this extremely detrimental bill. In an effort to clarify the actual effects of this bill, here are some facts about SB 106 and current abortion law in Pennsylvania:
Taxpayer dollars are not regularly used to pay for elective abortions in Pennsylvania. Therefore, SB 106 is not necessary to prevent the purely imagined problem of taxpayer funded elective abortion. Currently, the only publicly funded abortions in Pennsylvania are those related to pregnancies that are life-threatening or that are the result of rape or incest. Many agree that public funds should be preserved for these extreme and rare circumstances to provide some level of relief to victims through the Commonwealth. Outside of these narrow exceptions, taxpayer money is not spent on any elective abortions in this Commonwealth.
SB 106 is not just about the use of public funds for abortion. It threatens ALL abortion rights in Pennsylvania and any right related to abortion, which may jeopardize access to a range of healthcare options, including contraception. SB 106 clearly states that it relates to any “right relating to abortion,” not merely publicly-funded abortions. So a vote for SB 106 isn’t just a vote to limit tax-payer funded abortions; it’s a vote to limit all abortions and potentially related healthcare options, like contraceptives, throughout Pennsylvania.
SB 106 is a serious threat to the status quo and attempts to drastically change the landscape of reproductive healthcare throughout the Commonwealth. It enshrines entirely new language in the Constitution that takes away Pennsylvanians’ rights to bodily autonomy, and is NOT in keeping with the legislative or judicial history of this Commonwealth over the past 50 years. SB 106 establishes an entirely new precedent: that Pennsylvania’s Constitution does not and cannot be inferred to grant ANY rights related to abortion. No reading of Pennsylvania’s constitution and relevant recent case law would show that this is the current understanding of the people, laws, or Constitution of this Commonwealth.
If passed, SB 106 will have broad, extreme impacts, and open the door to total abortion bans in the state of Pennsylvania. Anything said to the contrary is false. Opponents of this bill are accurately assessing its language and impacts. They are wisely cautioning against its passage, because SB 106 could lead to the end of reproductive autonomy in this Commonwealth. This law specifically states that Pennsylvania’s Constitution does not guarantee “any right related to abortion.” This is cause for great alarm. What purpose could this bill serve, besides to validate future laws that ban many or all or most abortion services from this Commonwealth?
Nothing written in SB 106 guarantees that victims of rape and incest or people with life-threatening pregnancies will still be able to access publicly funded abortions. Currently, people enrolled in Medicaid can access publicly funded abortions only if their pregnancy is life-threatening, or the result of rape or incest. As the Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape, we are especially concerned with preserving these protections for survivors and all pregnant people who need this care. SB 106 directly threatens survivors’ rights; this bill specifically allows for future laws to be passed that end all public funding of abortion, including for victims or for those who will not survive pregnancy and/or childbirth. Nothing in this bill guarantees that these rights will continue to be protected.
Nothing in SB 106 guarantees that the current Abortion Control Act will remain the prevailing law on abortion regulation in Pennsylvania. Indeed, SB 106 was written to legitimate changes to current abortion regulation. It is very likely that, if passed, SB 106 would validate much stricter abortion limitations than are present in Pennsylvania’s current Abortion Control Act.
SB 106 is not about the will of the people in this Commonwealth. SB 106 is a constitutional amendment that cannot be vetoed by the Governor, who was elected by the majority of Pennsylvania’s voters to reflect their views when approving or vetoing legislation. SB 106 was also originally run as a different bill, then replaced with a new number only days before it was voted upon, giving the public little opportunity to understand what was happening or to communicate their perspectives to their legislators. The majority of Pennsylvanians support reproductive rights. More than half of the voters in this Commonwealth believe abortion should be legal in all or most circumstances; four out of five believe abortion care should be legal in at least some situations. Furthermore, SB 106 also includes a constitutional amendment that would require voters to show a photo ID to be eligible to vote. We know this type of voter suppression disproportionately impacts voters of color and voters living in poverty and creates barriers to their full participation in voting. Voter education and protection of voting rights will be a crucial factor in influencing whether or not abortion remains legal and safe in Pennsylvania.
This is especially true because people of color and people living in poverty will be disproportionately impacted by abortion restrictions. Therefore, PCAR is concerned about any attempt to suppress or limit the voices of Pennsylvania voters. SB 106 and other extreme abortion restrictions do not reflect the majority of Pennsylvanians’ views on abortion access. Our representatives in Harrisburg must listen to the views of their communities and protect Pennsylvanians’ rights to make personal, private decisions about their bodies, including decisions about preventing, continuing, or terminating a pregnancy.
Considering these facts, the Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape urges you to oppose SB 106. PCAR firmly believes that Pennsylvania should not pass legislation designed 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, x114; or Chief of Public Affairs, Jim Willshier, at email@example.com or (717) 712-8815.
For nearly 50 years, the Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape has worked to end sexual violence and advocate for the rights and needs of victims of sexual assault. We partner with and represent a combined network of victim resource centers that help more than 30,000 survivors each year in all 67 Pennsylvania counties. To learn more about our services, call 1-888-772-7227 or visit https://pcar.org/help-pa/find-services.