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Politics & Government

PA Advocates Say They're Ready To Fight Following Passage Of Ohio 'Heartbeat Law'

Charlotte Cooper

Reproductive health advocates around the region are reacting to last week’s legislative action in Ohio that would ban abortion at six weeks gestation, well before many women know they are pregnant. Gov. John Kasich now has 10 days to act on the “heartbeat law.”

In Pittsburgh, reproductive rights organizations are preparing for the possibility of similar legislation in Pennsylvania. La’Tasha Mayes, executive director of New Voices for Reproductive Justice, said she plans to increase policy advocacy and leverage partnerships throughout the state.

“This is what we can expect going forward in the next four years,” Mayes said. “It’s about resisting all of these attacks because they will be incessant, they will be unrelenting.”

The Pennsylvania House recently passed a bill that would ban abortion at 20 weeks. Jessica Semler with the Planned Parenthood of Western Pennsylvania said when the legislation was introduced, it was considered one of the most restrictive in the country.

“Also, they didn’t consult with any doctors; they didn’t consult with anyone with a health background, all of whom said this was not advisable,” Semler said.

The Pennsylvania legislation, House Bill 1948, like the Ohio “heartbeat law,” does not include exceptions for rape or incest.

Susan Frietsche, senior staff attorney with the Women’s Law Project, said the “heartbeat law” is an example of political grandstanding by Ohio anti-abortion groups, because the restrictions are in clear violation of the Constitution.

“Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey are still the law of the land,” Friestche said. “The Ohio bill does not pass muster under those principles.”

Friestche said when legislation like the “heartbeat law” is introduced, legislators are rarely concerned about the actual health of the pregnant woman, the fetus or the infant.

“Abortion restrictions are about restricting women, denying them equality and harming our chances at self-determination,” Friestche said.

As President-elect Donald Trump builds his administration, Mayes said she and her team at New Voices are preparing to resist what they consider oppressive laws. She said their strategy will be “multi-racial, multi-cultural, multi-generational and multi-issue.”

“The fight for reproductive health rights and justice will be fierce over the next few years,” Mayes said. “We’ll work with our state partners and engage and mobilize our base and work with our partners to fight these bills.”

Pennsylvania lawmakers reconvene in January, where it is unclear whether HB 1948 will be reintroduced. Gov. Tom Wolf has said he’ll veto the bill.

Photo: Charlotte Cooper/Flickr.