Pennsylvania state legislators rallied with representatives of Planned Parenthood Wednesday at the state Capitol, including local Rep. Mike Sturla (D-Lancaster), to protest the passage of a referendum amending the state constitution to limit abortion.
The proposed amendment in Senate Bill 106, which was passed by the legislature in July and introduced by Sen. Kim Ward (R-Westmoreland) and dubbed the “Life” amendment, states that “this constitution does not grant the right to taxpayer-funded abortion or any other right relating to abortion.” The amendment makes state legislation outlawing abortion stronger to stand against challenges to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court.
The Pennsylvania House of Representatives voted 107-92 to pass SB 106 on July 8, which includes separate amendments to the Constitution of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, along with the abortion language. SB106 passed the Senate earlier the same day with a vote of 28-22, mostly along party lines, which also included amendments requiring gubernatorial candidates to select their own running mates for lieutenant governor and a requirement for voters to present valid identification prior to voting.
For the amendments to be added to the Pennsylvania Constitution, they must pass two consecutive sessions of the General Assembly before going on the ballot for voters to decide on the issue. Constitutional amendments in Pennsylvania do not require the governor’s signature to be placed on the ballot.
Sturla was one of several legislators who spoke in the Capitol Rotunda at the rally organized by Planned Parenthood.
In a message posted on Twitter, Sturla said, “Proud to stand with Planned Parenthood and my colleagues at the Capitol today to support reproductive rights and women’s health care. I voted against SB 106 and I will always oppose any efforts to criminalize abortion.”
A later tweet on Wednesday from Sturla included a video and message that said, “Bodily autonomy is an inherent right, and it’s a right that the Supreme Court and Republicans on the state and national level are dedicated to taking away from women.”
In the video posted on social media, Sturla said Pennsylvania Republicans plan to push through the referendum language for the second time early in the 2023 legislative term.
Sturla said Democrat legislators need to let the public know “what’s at stake” in the proposed constitutional amendments and that the abortion issue comes down to “bodily autonomy.” He said individuals are not required to make medical decisions unless it is done voluntarily and that the language puts women “in a separate class” and that “we can tell them exactly how they have to use their body.”
“This is about whether or not women have the right to control their own body,” Sturla said in the video. “I have a right to control my own body. Somebody can’t say, ‘Hey, I’m sorry. You look like you have a healthy extra lung there. I want to harvest that because it’s mine. You can help save somebody.’”
The rally in Harrisburg came a day after Planned Parenthood Keystone opened its new facility in Lancaster, marking the first time abortions could possibly be performed by the organization in the county.