Before a crowd in Philadelphia City Hall, Gov. Tom Wolf vetoed a bill that would have given the state one of the strictest abortion laws in the nation.
Wolf, a Democrat, signed the veto against controversial Senate Bill 3 (SB3) due to its intent to “create the most extreme anti-choice legislation in the country,” he said.
“This legislation is an attempt to criminalize the decisions that women make about their own health care, and this legislation destroys health care options for victims of the horrors of rape and incest. For these reasons, I am vetoing this bill today,” Wolf said.
The bill passed both the House of Representatives and Senate before landing on Wolf’s desk. It would ban abortions after 20 weeks in nearly all circumstances and would have made a procedure commonly used by doctors in trimester abortions illegal.
Advocates for women were mainly against the legislation and took exception to the fact there was no exception for victims of rape or incest.
“The careful thoughtfulness that we hoped would guide our legislators was absent,” said Deborah Minkoff, commissioner for the Pennsylvania Commission for Women. “SB 3 has no exception for rape. The legislature is forcing a girl or woman to continue a pregnancy that resulted from a criminal act. Despite our expectation of thoughtful decision-making, the absence of a rape exception is thoughtless and heartless.”
“We are most concerned about the disproportionate impact of such a law on the health and well-being of Black women and women of color. We stand in solidarity with Governor Wolf in his courageous veto of Senate Bill 3 – a dangerous bill that undermines the Human Right of women to control our bodies and our reproduction,” said Executive Director for New Voices for Reproductive Justice La’Tasha D. Mayes.
Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney told reporters he supported Wolf’s veto.
“The state should not be telling women—particularly women who became pregnant by rape or incest—that they don’t have the right to decide what to do with their body. These women are victims and they should not be victimized again by this law,” the mayor said.
“This is a sad day for women and children in Pennsylvania. With his veto of Senate Bill 3, Governor Tom Wolf is allowing the inhumane practice of dismemberment abortion to continue in the Commonwealth. No living child should have to endure being ripped limb by limb from a mother’s womb, and no mother should have to endure the emotional pain of losing a child in such a brutal manner. Governor Wolf’s distressing decision goes against the will of the vast majority of Pennsylvanians, who want to see cruel dismemberment abortions banned, once and for all,” read a statement from Michael Ciccocioppo, executive director of the Pennsylvania Pro-Life Federation, an affiliate of National Right to Life.
The Republican-majority legislature attempted to pass a similar bill last year, but it stalled once it reached the Senate.
Legislators could attempt to override Wolf’s veto and would need a two-thirds vote from both the House of Representatives and Senate. The veto override is not likely to garner enough support.
Data from the Pennsylvania Department of Health in 2015 indicated that abortions have fallen over the years and 31,818 were performed in that year. The majority of abortions were performed on unmarried women and 40 percent lived in Philadelphia. Just over 1,100 Bucks County residents received abortions in 2015. The majority of abortions in the state were performed before 12 weeks gestation.