What happens if Roe v. Wade is overturned? In Pa., the answer depends on the November governor’s race.
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HARRISBURG — The outcome of the Pennsylvania governor’s race could determine the future of legal abortion access in the state, which is uncertain following the leak of a draft U.S. Supreme court opinion that would overturn Roe v. Wade.
Such a decision would leave how, where, and why someone could get a legal abortion, if at all, up to each state’s legislature and governor. All nine of the Republican gubernatorial candidates in Pennsylvania support additional abortion restrictions, and at least four would seek a complete ban with no exceptions.
Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf, a former Planned Parenthood clinic escort who is statutorily unable to seek another term, has blocked efforts by the GOP-controlled legislature to further curtail abortion access during his seven years in office. Republicans will likely maintain control of both the state House and Senate this November, raising the stakes in an already critical governor’s race.
“We’ve gotten to this point because of a well-organized and continuously mobilized pro-life movement that has spent the last half-century working to this goal,” said Lehigh University sociologist Ziad Munson, who has written about abortion politics.
According to a draft opinion circulated within the court and reported by Politico Monday night, the U.S. Supreme Court has already voted to overturn Roe v. Wade, a landmark court decision that has protected the right to abortion for almost 50 years. Chief Justice John Roberts on Tuesday confirmed the draft’s authenticity but said it was not final.
The draft opinion, written by conservative Justice Samuel Alito in February, decries the 1973 decision as “egregiously wrong from the start.” But for now, at least, the precedent set in Roe v. Wade and affirmed in Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pennsylvania v. Casey will remain in place.
Should the court strike Roe down, nothing will immediately change for Pennsylvanians.
“Let’s be clear: Abortion is still legal,” said Planned Parenthood Southeastern Pennsylvania president and CEO Dayle Steinberg, whose organization still provides abortion care despite ongoing threats to access.
Under Pennsylvania state law, abortion is legal up to 24 weeks into a pregnancy, with later exceptions made for extraordinary circumstances like the health of the person giving birth.
Still, the law already includes significant restrictions, which would likely expand should a Republican succeed Wolf as governor.
At least four of the nine GOP candidates for governor — state Sen. Doug Mastriano (R., Franklin), former Delaware County Council Member Dave White, Poconos surgeon Nche Zama, and Montgomery County Commissioner Joe Gale — have all said they support abortion bans without exceptions for rape, incest, or the life of the parent.
At a debate in late April, Mastriano, who has consistently appeared at or near the top of polls, called legal abortion “a national catastrophe,” before promising to “move with alacrity” on a six-week abortion ban.
“We lack a William Wilberforce of our time,” Mastriano said, comparing the movement to abolish slavery in 18th and 19th century Britain to efforts to restrict abortion access. “We don’t have any champions in Pennsylvania.”
Mastriano also called for doctors who perform abortions to be punished.
Attorney General Josh Shapiro, the only Democratic candidate for governor who will appear on the May 17 primary ballot, supports maintaining access to abortion.
“The next governor will have a bill on their desk to restrict or outlaw abortion rights,” Shapiro said during a press call Tuesday. “I will of course veto it, my opponent will sign it.”
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