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Pro-choice activists hold up placards in front of the US Supreme Court (JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images)

Her rights

Opposition to restrictive Pennsylvania anti-abortion bill ramps up

By Emma-Louise Boynton on March 3, 2017

Reproductive rights activists and medical professionals have been campaigning tirelessly over the past few weeks to oppose one of the nation’s most restrictive anti-abortion bills from being passed into law in Pennsylvania. The bill proposes banning virtually all abortions after 20 weeks and criminalizing a medically accepted abortion method known as “dilation and evacuation.” The Republican-backed legislation passed through the House in February, just two votes short of a veto-proof majority, with one Democrat supporting it and three Republicans voting against it.

Pennsylvania’s Democratic Governor Tom Wolf has been a vocal opponent of the bill, organizing events with activists, doctors and women who have had late-term abortions who would have been impacted by the law. “We’ve got to keep politics out of the doctor’s office,” he told The Huffington Post. Although Wolf has vowed to veto the legislation as soon as it reaches his desk, Republicans in the state legislature may be able to override that veto.

Contrary to the insinuations made by President Donald Trump during the election debates around late-term abortions — which he seemed to confuse with caesarean sections when he said “you can take the baby and rip the baby out of the womb in the ninth month on the final day” — abortions are not permitted in the ninth month. Late-term abortions are very rare. According to the Guttmacher Institute, 89 percent of abortions take place in the first trimester, 14 weeks into the pregnancy, and fewer than 1.3 percent occur after 21 weeks. Of the 11 percent of pregnancies that take place after the first trimester the dilation and evacuation method is used in 95 percent of cases.

The safety of this procedure — in which the patient’s cervix is dilated and suction is used to remove the fetus — has been approved by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), who suggest it is “evidence-based and medically preferred because it results in the fewest complications for women compared to alternative procedures.” Efforts to ban this method they argue risks increasing complications and worsening outcomes for patients.

Almost 20 states have enacted laws banning late-term abortions based on the dubious claim that the fetus begins to feel pain at this point. According to the ACOG this assertion is medically unsubstantiated and “fetal perception of pain is unlikely before the third trimester.”

Speaking to The Huffington Post, Sari Stevens, executive director of Planned Parenthood Pennsylvania Advocates, said that restricting medically approved abortion procedures was akin to lawmakers “specifying which medical tools can be used in a surgical procedure.”

“There is no other field of medicine where it would be appropriate for 253 predominantly white male legislators to say, ‘This is how you practice medicine,’” Stevens continued. “We haven’t seen any bills with the combination of these two prohibitions before, and we believe both to be unconstitutional, and remarkably so when combined together. It’s not only an unconstitutional ban. It goes farther than many bans we’ve seen in the country, if not most.”

Opponents of the bill have contested the fact that lawmakers did not permit public testimony on the legislation, thereby excluding any input from medical professionals. In a letter last year the the Pennsylvania Medical Society’s president wrote of the bill: “It just seems like the facts are irrelevant, and this is just, you know, the die is cast, this bill is going to be passed, and the medical community’s input is just irrelevant to them”.

Legislators are scheduled to vote on the bill later this month.
Read the full story The Huffington Post.