With oral arguments before the U.S. Supreme Court (SCOTUS) on Wednesday in a Mississippi case that could determine the future of the landmark Roe v. Wade decision, various Pennsylvania politicians and interest groups weighed in.
The case, Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, would ban abortions after 15 weeks in Mississippi. It’s possible the high court could uphold the law by effectively striking down the 1973 ruling. It established a legal right to abortion and restricted the ability of elected legislators to pass laws regulating the controversial medical procedure.
The court is also considering a Texas law that imposed a “fetal heartbeat” restriction on abortions in the Lone Star state. Justices allowed that law to take effect but may issue a ruling abrogating it later.
Pennsylvanians in the pro-life camp say they fervently hope the court upholds the Mississippi law.
“It’s all about the constitutionality,” said Tom Stevens, president and CEO of the Pro-Life Union of Greater Philadelphia, which held a prayer vigil in front of Planned Parenthood in Philadelphia Wednesday morning to ask God to give the Supreme Court justices “wisdom.”
“We’re hopeful that this could even be an overturning of Roe v. Wade and, as we know, Roe v. Wade is bad law,” Stevens said. “And also, the world has changed since then. With today’s modern technology, we’re able to see clearly that a baby early in the womb is a baby.”
The Planned Parenthood Association of Pennsylvania (PPAP) also held demonstrations around the commonwealth Wednesday.
“We are a state with some abortion access in limited areas, with a limited number of providers,” said Signe Espinoza, PPAP executive director. “The results of this Supreme Court case could put pressure on the entire abortion access network throughout the country — including Pennsylvania.”
Some statewide 2022 political candidates offered their thoughts on Wednesday’s hearing.
“It appears the Supreme Court is leaning toward upholding the rights of the states to set limitations on abortion,” said Kathy Barnette, a Republican Senate candidate. “If that ends up being the final decision by the court, that states have the power to limit and restrict abortion, it would be in keeping with the 10th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.
“In a culture where we are rapidly moving through the Constitution like a whale moves through a net, where our legislators are interacting with the Constitution as if it’s just a list of suggestions, the court’s decision to actually uphold the U.S. Constitution would be a welcome salve for our limping document. Personally, as someone who was conceived through rape when my mother was just 11 years years old, I will always stand alongside those who stand in the defense of life.”
Charlie Gerow, a GOP strategist who is running for governor, agreed the justices may rule in favor of upholding the Mississippi statute.
“I’m very, very grateful to my birth mother for doing the right thing,” said Gerow, who was adopted. “I’m incredibly blessed she made that decision.”
If he becomes governor, Gerow says he would sign a law to make abortion illegal after a baby’s heartbeat can be heard. A similar law was previously vetoed by Gov. Tom Wolf, a Democrat.
“I’m a great believer in the blessings of life,” said Gerow.
Republican gubernatorial candidate and former congressman Lou Barletta said, “Abortion takes the life of a child, who if it were allowed to be born, would have all of the rights of any other human being. At that point, killing the baby would rightly be called murder. Abortion activists like to say that abortion is ‘healthcare,’ but where does the unborn baby go for healthcare?
“As Americans, we should do all that we can to protect the most vulnerable, and that should include unborn children,” said Barletta. “I am hopeful the Supreme Court will uphold the Mississippi law.”
Republican Dave White, a former Delaware County councilman who is running for governor said, “As one of 14 children in my family, I’m a strong supporter of life. It’s our duty as a society to protect the most vulnerable among us, including the unborn, and I’ll be following this case closely.”
For Democrat Dr. Val Arkoosh, chair of the Montgomery County Board of Commissioners and U.S. Senate candidate, the issue is a woman’s right to choose.
“This case represents the biggest challenge to Roe v. Wade in decades, just a month after the Supreme Court heard arguments over the six-week Texas abortion ban,” said Arkoosh. “As a doctor on the labor and delivery floor, I sat with patients learning hard truths about their pregnancies and facing difficult choices. But they were choices that were theirs to make. I have seen firsthand how important it is that every patient have access to the full range of healthcare choices and the danger that could come with limiting those decisions. It is truly life and death and we need to act to codify Roe v. Wade.”
GOP gubernatorial candidate Guy Ciarrocchi, who is on hiatus from his job as the president of the Chester County Chamber of Commerce said, “I am pro-life. But, whether or not one agrees with Roe v Wade, we should all be saddened to know that millions of babies have died—30,000 each year in our state. The decision focused on a baby’s viability in 1973. At a minimum, we should all agree that viability is now much, much earlier due to scientific advances. So, Roe is now not only bad law, it’s based on very, very outdated science. It is time for Roe to be replaced.”
Montgomery County Commissioner Joe Gale, a candidate for governor, promised to “protect every child from the moment of conception. Allowing the most defenseless and voiceless among us to be murdered in the womb is unacceptable, unethical, and unforgivable. Under my leadership, Pennsylvania will be a sanctuary state for innocent unborn human life.”
A spokesman for state Sen. Jake Corman (R-Centre), who is also running for governor, said Corman is “pro-life and a supporter of Pennsylvania’s Abortion Control Act and has worked to strengthen the law. With advances in medical care, he supports doing all we can to protect the sanctity of life.”
Dr. Nche Zama, a cardiothoracic surgeon who is running for governor said, “All human life is precious, including the unborn, and must be cherished and protected.”
“While I am not supportive of unsustainable, and historically-ineffective, draconian and vigilante policies such as we have witnessed in Texas, I understand that there are extremely rare cases where an abortion is medically indicated,” said Zama, Republican. “Like many clinicians I do believe that a woman faced with a decision to commit an abortion is really crying out for help and no policy on this matter can ever be effective if it is punitive, does not address root cause, and fails to consider her an important stakeholder. She needs counseling and other resources that can enable her to appreciate the alternative of preserving human life including the option of adoption. What the general public may not be aware of is the long term adverse remorseful psychological impact on a woman after an abortion. By the same token the woman who has rejected the abortion alternative should never feel abandoned by society as she struggles socially and economically to raise the child. To be effective and meaningful our commitment to the preservation of human life must be holistic and not only to satisfy a fleeting agenda.”
In contrast, Attorney General Josh Shapiro, the only Democrat running for governor so far, released this statement:
“The Mississippi case before the United States Supreme Court could nullify the law of the land set by Roe v. Wade, and rob women of their constitutional right to control their own bodies. The extremists behind these laws won’t stop with abortion. A decision upholding Mississippi’s law would threaten many rights Americans have come to depend on, including the right to marry and access to contraception, based on a radical, narrow-minded, and unilateral reinterpretation of the Constitution. My office filed an amicus brief in this case supporting a woman’s constitutional right to an abortion, and we will continue to use the full force of this office and decades of precedent to defend that right.”