Pennsylvania governor's race is the next abortion access battleground
The future of abortion access in Pennsylvania could all come down to the crowded governor's race.
Driving the news: A leaked draft of a U.S. Supreme Court majority opinion overturning Roe v. Wade — written by Justice Samuel Alito and first reported by Politico late Monday — holds major implications for the midterm elections.
The big picture: If the Supreme Court were to overturn the 1973 ruling, which set the precedent for a constitutional right to abortion, a patchwork of state laws would govern the procedure, Axios' Oriana Gonzalez reports.
- Abortion would immediately become illegal in at least 13 states, none of which are located in the Northeast or Mid-Atlantic region.
State of play: Without Roe, abortion will remain legal in Pennsylvania for up to about 24 weeks of pregnancy, but protections are still vulnerable.
- Pennsylvania doesn't have any laws on the books codifying citizens' right to an abortion, but there aren't any so-called "trigger laws" for a ban to go into effect if the ruling is overturned either.
- The state has a number of abortion restrictions, including a 24-hour waiting period and counseling requirements.
- But with a Republican-controlled legislature and Wolf's term ending, political dynamics could change following this year's election, enabling stricter laws to be enacted quickly.
- State Attorney General Josh Shapiro is the only Democrat running for governor. Meanwhile, there are more than a half dozen Republicans vying for a spot in the upcoming primary.
Meanwhile, Republican rival state Sen. Doug Mastriano is renewing his push on a bill he reintroduced last year to ban abortions if a doctor can detect a heartbeat, which can happen as early as six weeks.
- "Thanks to President Trump, a conservative majority on the Supreme Court is set to right this historic wrong. Since I was elected to the Senate, there has been no more important issue to me than the right to life," Mastriano said in a statement.
Republican governor hopeful and former congressman Lou Barletta applauded the draft and committed to approving future conservative laws.
- "I will not prejudge or predict what kinds of legislation may come before me, but I will be a pro-life governor, and I will sign pro-life legislation," he said in a statement.
- A constitutional amendment, which cannot be vetoed by a governor, is easier to pass in Pennsylvania compared to other states because it only needs a simple majority in two consecutive sessions before getting approval by a majority vote in a primary or general election.
- It could go on the ballot as early as May 2023.
Between the lines: The amendment wouldn't immediately outlaw abortion, but it can pave the way for future criminalization of abortions, according to the Women's Law Project.
- Theoretically, Democrats can also put up their own amendment, a statutory protection or a bill to enshrine the right to an abortion, but they don't have the votes to make it a reality.
Plus: The longterm implication of overturning Roe v. Wade is that it could implicate other rights that are derived from the right to privacy, like contraception and same-sex marriage, according to Adrienne Ghorasi, the program manager at the Center for Public Health Law Research.
Of note: Monday was the last day to register to vote in Pennsylvania. It's also a closed state, meaning only Republicans and Democrats can vote in their respective primaries.
What's next: A Supreme Court ruling is expected to come at the end of June.
The bottom line: Abortion rights are safe in Pennsylvania for now, but the upcoming elections can change that.
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