Shusterman on SB 106: Too Radical, Too Extreme
This past summer, Republicans in the Pennsylvania House and Senate rammed through a bill with several proposed constitutional amendments that would limit personal rights instead of protecting them. One of the amendments included in SB 106 would change the state constitution to say there is no constitutional right to an abortion in Pennsylvania. I spoke in opposition of the bill on the House floor the night it passed. If this proposed amendment were to succeed, it would create a pathway in our commonwealth to ban all abortions without any exceptions.
A constitutional amendment goes through a different process than regular legislation. For a constitutional amendment to pass, the state House and Senate must vote on it in two consecutive legislative sessions and then it is placed on the ballot for voters to decide. Constitutional amendments cannot be vetoed by the governor. SB 106 passed through the General Assembly in July. If Republicans maintain control of both the House and Senate next year, SB 106 will likely be voted on again next session and voters could see it on the ballot as early as May 2023.
This proposed amendment is dangerous, extreme and it will destroy the lives of girls and women. It is the first step to denying people the right to control their own bodies. It turns back the clock on progress and would remove protections currently in place. Since the U.S. Supreme Court’s Dobbs decision, we have seen abortion bans go into effect across the country and we have seen horror stories of child rape victims forced into pregnancy in places where those bans exist. We cannot allow that to happen here in Pennsylvania. Abortion must remain safe and legal, and we must continue to be a safe haven for those who are seeking an abortion from other states.
When making health care decisions, every person deserves honesty and trust from their health care providers and the right to make informed choices about their own bodies. Their health care decisions should be left up to them and their doctors, not politicians. A patient should never have to wonder if their doctor is withholding information or treatment options and doctors must also be able to provide appropriate medical care without any outside influence or fear of prosecution. For the government to involve itself in these decisions is a dangerous precedent and it cannot be allowed.
When doctors are not able to perform care for common pregnancy issues like ectopic pregnancies, septic infections and uterine hemorrhage, the pregnant person’s life is put in danger.
How many women would die due to complications? How many would be forced to carry their rapist’s baby to term because a politician said so?
We hear Republicans talk about how abortion restrictions protect life, but that could not be further from the truth. If this was about supporting life, Republicans would support legislation for paid family leave (HB 788) and funding for pre/post-natal care for mothers and children (HB 1173, HB 1174, HB 1175). They would support holding fathers accountable and investing in pre-k and after school programs to help working families. They would also support ensuring working families get more tax relief instead of supporting tax cuts for the wealthiest. This constitutional amendment doesn’t support families and women. This is about denying them essential health care services. This is about control. Control over women and their personal liberties. Women’s bodies should not be used to score political points. Pennsylvania Republicans are trying to legislate their radical religious beliefs. Instead of codifying religious beliefs into our constitution, legislators should be working to move Pennsylvania forward and ensuring that the health care needs of everyone are protected.
We cannot turn our backs on our mothers, daughters and sisters. We cannot turn our backs on victims of incest and rape. We cannot allow SB 106 to move forward. It is too radical, too extreme and it is wrong for Pennsylvania.
Rep. Melissa Shusterman (D-Chester/Montgomery) was elected state representative for the 157th Legislative District in November 2018.