PA lawmakers introduce bill to ban abortion after fetal heartbeat is detected

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MICHAEL BRYANT / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf holds up his signed veto of Senate Bill 3, legislation that would have banned abortion after 20 weeks gestation, surrounded by supporters in the mayor's reception room at Philadelphia City Hall on Dec. 18, 2017.

In a move designed to ultimately stage a challenge to Roe v. Wade, two Pennsylvania lawmakers have have introduced so-called “heartbeat bills” in that state.

Sen. Doug Mastriano (R., Franklin) and Rep. Stephanie Borowicz (R., Clinton), members of Pennsylvania’s Republican-led legislature, said they introduced the measure in hopes that a more conservative U.S. Supreme Court might overturn the 1973 decision legalizing abortion.

Senate Bill 912 and House Bill 1977 would forbid abortion once a fetus’ heartbeat can be detected, typically at about six weeks of fetal life.

Some doctors and political activists argue that such laws would rule out abortion before many women even know they are pregnant, effectively amounting to a ban on terminating pregnancies.

“When you hear a baby’s heartbeat, everything changes,” Rep. Borowicz said during a news conference at the Pennsylvania Capitol. “If you can be declared dead when the heart stops, why not declared alive when it starts?”

Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf has promised to veto any bill. If the legislature overrides a veto, court challenges would likely follow.

Mastriano said in a memo he circulated to garner support from his Senate colleagues that the science that justified abortion in the 1960s isn’t the science of today that “shows more than 90 percent of all pregnancies are viable when a heartbeat is detected.”

“This legislation will be another great rallying cry for us to save babies around this state and possibly around the nation,” Borowicz stated in her co-sponsorship memo to her House colleagues.

“This bill is nothing but another unconstitutional attempt to ban abortion in Pennsylvania,” said Ashley Lenker White, executive director of Planned Parenthood PA Advocates.

Several states have passed similar laws, spurred by President Donald Trump’s appointment of two new, conservative justices to the U.S. Supreme Court.

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