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Opposition to ‘Safe Injection Sites’ Brings GOP, Dems Together in Happy Unity

In a rare moment of bipartisanship between the normally warring parties, Pennsylvania Democrats and Republicans—including state Gov. Josh Shapiro—have formed a unified opposition to “supervised injection sites” in Pennsylvania.

Supervised injection sites are controversial facilities in which drug users can go to consume illegal substances while being watched by trained staff. Advocates claim the sites save lives by allowing drug addicts to get high without fear of a fatal overdose.

The Pennsylvania Senate passed a bill this month—S.B. 165—that would ban those sites across the state. Every Republican senator and 13 Democratic senators voted in favor of it, while nine Democrats voted against it.

One of the bill’s sponsors, Sen. Tracy Pennycuick (R-Montgomery), told DVJournal that Democrats and Republicans came together on the bill “because nobody wants a safe injection site in their district.”

“When you think about a ‘safe injection site’ for illegal drugs, it’s just an oxymoron,” she argued. “You’re going to ask a nurse to inject a drug addict with an illegal drug, and you don’t know the potency or the efficacy or the component of what’s in that drug. All under the guise of, ‘Well, if we offer safe injection sites, they won’t overdose.’

“But you’re operating with a drug you have absolutely no knowledge of what’s in it, how quickly it’s going to work, how effective it is, and what constitutes a good dosage. It’s just a bad idea.”

The Senate bill would outlaw “the operation of a clinic or establishment that knowingly provides space for any person to inject, ingest, inhale or otherwise introduce into the person’s body a controlled substance.”

Pennycuick argued that there are “great programs in Pennsylvania” to help people kick drug habits. “We have methadone clinics, suboxone clinics,” she said.

“We need to help these people on drugs get off them and get clean,” she said. “We don’t need ‘safe injection sites.’ That’s just enabling their disease instead.”

Gov. Josh Shapiro has also voiced his opposition to the sites, a likely indicator that he will sign a ban that makes it through the legislature. He had previously come out against them as state attorney general and re-affirmed his opposition to them in December.

The facilities are also opposed at the local level. Montgomery County Republican Committee Chair Christian Nascimento told DVJournal: “There is bipartisan opposition to supervised injection sites because it’s common sense that they make neighborhoods less safe and do not actually help the people struggling with addiction.”

“Montgomery County’s Republican officials and candidates will continue to speak out against them because it is the right thing to do for the community,” he added.

Some evidence suggests supervised injection sites have a positive effect on drug use mortality.

A 2017 review in Canadian Family Physician suggests the facilities are “associated with lower overdose mortality … 67 percent fewer ambulance calls for treating overdoses, and a decrease in HIV infections.”

The federal government this month, meanwhile, announced a $5 million study to determine the efficacy of injection sites here in the U.S. The data will be drawn from locations in New York and Rhode Island.

DelVal Reps Back House Resolution to Prevent Railroad Strike

The House voted 290-137 on Wednesday to stop railroad workers from striking. The unions had set a Dec. 9 strike deadline. On Monday, President Joe Biden urged Congress to act to prevent a strike that could cripple the U.S. economy just before Christmas.

The entire Delaware Valley House delegation—Reps. Brian Fitzpatrick (R-Bucks/Montgomery), Madeleine Dean (D-Montgomery/Berks), Mary Gay Scanlon (D-Delaware/Philadelphia), and Chrissy Houlahan (D-Berks/Chester) voted for the resolution.

Fitzpatrick told “Fox News Sunday” congressional intervention was the last resort. But, he said, Congress “will not let this strike happen…It would be devastating to our economy. So, we’ll get to a resolution one way or another.”

The House also passed a separate measure giving rail workers seven days of paid sick leave per year with a 221-207 vote. Three Republicans supported it, including Fitzpatrick.

Dean said on Twitter: “Rail workers deserve more paid sick leave. And the pandemic made clear that we cannot risk the health & safety of others by coming into work sick. All workers need the ability to protect their families and coworkers—and the time to care for their own health.”

The 1926 Railway Labor Act gave Congress the authority to intervene in railroad labor disputes.

The Biden administration had previously brought together negotiators from the railroads and the unions and announced a deal. However, members of some unions rejected that deal, which includes a 24 percent way increase over the term of the contract and a 14.1 percent payout immediately that amounts to $16,000 to employees whose contracts are ratified.

The bill now goes to the Senate. It was unclear when that body will vote on it.  Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) declined to comment. Sen. Bob Casey (D-Pa.) did not respond to a request for comment on Wednesday.

However, the railroads and industries that rely on them to transport products urged the Senate to act.

“Today’s strong House vote to follow the clear majority pattern and implement remaining tentative agreements clearly underscores the overwhelming bipartisan support for Congress to heed President Biden’s call and quickly avert an economically destructive national rail shutdown without modification or delay,” said AAR CEO Ian Jefferies. “The Senate must now act quickly to implement the historic deals reached at the bargaining table and already ratified by eight of twelve unions. Unless Congress wants to become the de facto endgame for future negotiations, any effort to put its thumb on the bargaining scale to artificially advantage either party or otherwise obstruct a swift resolution would be wholly irresponsible and risk a timely outcome to avoid significant economic harm.”

Mike Sommers, CEO and president of the American Petroleum Institute said, “Rail transportation is a critical part of the U.S. supply chain and is essential to the continued production and delivery of affordable, reliable energy. A disruption has the potential to reach every aspect of the U.S. economy and could hamper the U.S. gasoline supply, leading to upward pressure on prices for American consumers and businesses. We are pleased the House has taken action on this issue and urge the Senate to do the same.”

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PA Politicians Push ‘Abortion On Demand’ Legislation After SCOTUS Leak

In the wake of a leaked U.S. Supreme Court opinion that would overturn Roe v. Wade, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer is expected to bring the Women’s Health Protection Act (WHPA) back to the Senate floor. However, he is almost certain to lack the 60 votes needed for cloture — allowing the bill to come to the Senate floor for a vote — or even 50 votes to pass it. On Feb. 28,  Sen. Manchin (D-W. Va.) voted with the Republicans to block it.

In February, Sen. Bob Casey (D-Pa.), who is sometimes described as prof-life, voted to advance the bill with the rest of his Democratic colleagues. His office did not respond to a request to comment on whether he will vote that way again next week.

Casey’s stance on abortion issues has been fluid. Until recently, he said he supported a ban on abortions after 20 weeks — a position in line with a majority of Americans according to Gallup polling. However, he also refused to block changes to Obamacare in 2010 to provide taxpayer-funded elective abortions.

“Casey’s voting record in Congress aligns significantly with abortion-rights groups such as Planned Parenthood and NARAL. He has voted along with Planned Parenthood 75 percent of the time since 2011,” Politico reported in 2018. “And he voted with NARAL Pro-Choice America 100 percent of the time in 2016 and 2017.”

Supporting the WHPA, however, is a new level of pro-abortion politics.

According to an analysis by John McCormack who covers abortion legislation for the conservative National Review magazine, the WHPA creates a federal right to abortion through nine months of pregnancy in all 50 states; overrides nearly all state abortion laws, including parental-consent laws like Pennsylvania’s; weakens “conscience exemptions” to keep healthcare workers from being forced to participate in abortion procedures that violate their religious beliefs; and creates a right for non-doctors to perform abortions.

“WHPA will essentially legalize abortion throughout all nine months of pregnancy and undo every state law that has protected children in the womb,” according to the group Democrats for Life America.

While most Americans say they oppose overturning Roe v. Wade, polls consistently show fewer than 20 percent of Americans support unlimited abortion up to the day of birth. However, that is exactly the position every Democrat in the Delaware Valley’s congressional delegation took when they voted to pass the WHPA last fall.

Congresswoman Madeleine Dean (D-Montgomery) tweeted after voting for the bill, “The Women’s Health Protection Act will: Codify Roe v. Wade. Create federal protection against state laws that restrict women’s health. Prohibit unwarranted restrictions that single out abortion services or providers. Beyond proud to serve in this House that passed #WHPA.”

“Like many of you, I was outraged by the leaked draft opinion of the Supreme Court regarding Roe v. Wade – and what this extreme Supreme Court may do to our country,” Dean said in an email.  “Predicting this, in September, the House passed the Women’s Health Protection Act to codify Roe v. Wade. Since then, it’s been stalled in the Senate because of the filibuster.

Rep. Madeleine Dean with abortion protesters at Independence Hall.

“It’s time the Senate carve out a filibuster exception to pass WHPA, as they’ve recently done with our debt ceiling,” she said. “Women must remain free to fulfill their right to privacy, legal and safe abortion, contraceptives, and full healthcare treatment.”

Congresswoman Mary Gay Scanlon (D-Delaware County/Philadelphia) tweeted after the SCOTUS  leak earlier this week, “Women were called hysterical for sounding the alarm about abortion rights. We were told Roe and Casey were settled law. This leaked opinion shows we were right to be terrified. The Senate must move NOW to pass the Women’s Health Protection Act.”

And Rep. Chrissy Houlahan (D-Berks/Chester) said this on her campaign website, “A woman’s health care decisions should be made between her, her doctor, and her faith – not politicians. I am very concerned by state-level laws that inject politics into that decision, as well as the dangerous Supreme Court challenges to Roe v. Wade. That’s why I am taking action by supporting the Women’s Health Protection Act, standing against efforts to defund Planned Parenthood, and working to improve maternal health care access through the Maternal Health Quality Improvement Act.”

Abortion is also on the table in the state legislature. State Senate Republicans are putting forward a bill that would add a constitutional amendment to maintain the status quo of no right to or funding for an abortion.

“Federal courts have long held that the federal constitution does not require taxpayer funding of abortion. The Pennsylvania Supreme Court held in 1985 that the state constitution also does not require such taxpayer funding,” said state Sen. Judy Ward (R-Blair/Cumberland/Franklin/Fulton/Hunterdon).

“If approved, Senate Bill  956 will prevent taxpayer dollars from funding elective terminations and will preserve the authority of elected officials – not the judicial branch – to enact future abortion laws.

“To no one’s surprise, this issue has elicited consternation from abortion rights activists who wield passionate and misleading rhetoric to convince the masses that my bill will lead to widespread bans. Nothing could be further from the truth,” Ward said.

“Currently, Medicaid covers both non-elective abortions and voluntary abortions involving cases of rape or incest but still withholds funding for elective abortions,” Ward added.  “If the state constitutional amendment is approved by the voters, this won’t change. The Abortion Control Act will remain the law, as well. The language does not ban abortions, but rather ensures that abortion policy in Pennsylvania comes from the people’s elected representatives.”

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