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Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. The outcome of the Pennsylvania governor’s election race could determine the future of legal access to abortion in the state, which remains uncertain following the leak of a draft U.S. Supreme Court ruling overturning Rowe v. Wade.

Such a decision will remain in the election of the legislatures and governors of each state. All nine Republican gubernatorial candidates in Pennsylvania support additional restrictions on abortion, and at least five will seek a total ban without exception.

Democratic Gov. Tom Wolfe, a former escort of the Planned Paternity Clinic who is not legally eligible for another term, has blocked efforts by the Republican-controlled legislature to further restrict access to abortion during his seven years in office. Republicans are likely to retain control of both the state House and the Senate in November this year, raising stakes in the already critical race for governor.

“We have reached this point thanks to a well-organized and continuously mobilized movement for life, which has been working towards this goal for the last half century,” said Lehai University sociologist Ziad Manson, who wrote about abortion policy.

Opponents of abortion have noted leaked opinions with hope for the future, but also some reservations as to what the final court decision will be.

Michael Sikatsiopa, executive director of the Pennsylvania Federation of Pro-Life, said in an email that the group “will allow the Supreme Court to speak for itself and wait for the court’s official opinion,” and declined to comment on “hypothetical questions.” ”

For now, at least the precedent set in Rowe v. Wade and confirmed in “Planned Parenthood in Southeast Pennsylvania v. Casey” will remain in place.

“Let’s be clear: abortion is still legal,” said Dale Steinberg, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood Southeast Pennsylvania.

Under state law, abortion is allowed for up to 24 weeks of pregnancy, with later exceptions made for emergencies such as the health of the mother.

The Abortion Control Act, a 1982 law governing abortion in Pennsylvania, already includes significant restrictions. People who want to have an abortion must wait 24 hours after receiving mandatory counseling, and minors cannot have an abortion without parental consent.

It is also the only law governing medical procedures enshrined in the state’s criminal code, said Sue Friche, founder and director of the Western Pennsylvania Women’s Law Mission. The law provides severe criminal and civil penalties for doctors and nurses who violate it.

“It’s a manifestation of the stigma of abortion,” she said. “The goal of our legislature is to include what is actually health care regulation in the crime code – is to throw a cloud of unpleasant suspicions on the whole area.”

The state of access and what the future may bring

If the court kills Rowe, nothing will immediately change for the Pennsylvania.

In the short term, abortion providers expect Pennsylvania to become a haven for people from states where access will stop if Roe is revoked, said Melissa Reed, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood Keystone.

Without Rowe Reed said she expects an additional 8,500 patients to arrive annually from other states in addition to the 7,600 abortion patients served annually by Keystone Planned Parenthood.

“I think it’s important for people to know that the consequences of this will be really dangerous and unprecedented,” Reed said.

But depending on who replaces Wolff as governor, the situation could change quickly for Pennsylvania residents.

At least five of the nine Republican candidates for governor are Montgomery County Commissioner Joe Gale, Conservative strategist Charlie Gerow, State Senator Doug Mastrian (R. Franklin), former Delaware County Council member Dave Yana White and surgeon Panos. support a ban on abortion without exception for rape, incest or parental life.

On a debate In late April, Mastriana, who invariably appeared at or near the top of the polls, called legal abortion a “national catastrophe” before promising to “move fast” to ban abortions for six weeks.

“We lack the William Wilberforce of our time,” Mastriana said, comparing the abolitionist movement in Britain in the 18th and 19th centuries to efforts to restrict access to abortion. “We don’t have champions in Pennsylvania.”

The sixth candidate, former U.S. MP Melissa Hart (R., Pennsylvania), said she would support only parental exclusion. Everything else, she said, would be inconsistent.

“If you believe it’s a child and that child has a right to life, then we can work with a pregnant mother through a crisis,” Hart told Spotlight PA.

Three other candidates also backed tougher abortion laws, but said they would support some exceptions. Senate Senior President Jake Corman (center), former federal prosecutor Bill McSwayne and former U.S. envoy Lou Barlett (R., Pennsylvania) have said they will allow abortion in the event of rape, incest or parental life.

Attorney General Josh Shapiro, the only Democratic candidate for governor to run in the May 17 primary, supports maintaining access to abortion.

“The next governor will have a bill on the table restricting or banning the right to abortion,” Shapiro said during a call to the press on Tuesday. “I will, of course, veto. My opponent will sign. “

Legislative support

As Wolf’s veto was confident, Republican lawmakers – backed by some of their fellow Democrats – passed several bills to further restrict access to abortion, including a 20-week ban in 2017. The Democrat governor rejected everything.

But a Republican governor asking for a total ban would provoke a “very intense” internal conversation among Republican lawmakers, said state spokesman Tom Mehafi (R., Dauphin).

“I am definitely a fan of life,” said Mehafi, “but I believe in exceptions. I’ve always talked about it openly. “

He added that a lot could change by 2023, as the wave of lags behind the legislature and new political maps brings to the General Assembly fresh faces who do not share his reservations.

Republican candidates who no longer support even limited exceptions regarding rape, incest or parental life are proof of how successful the abortion restriction movement has been, said Manson of Lehigh University.

The exceptions began as a compromise, “which the movement has never wanted, but the public is doing so by far,” Manson said.

Franklin and Marshall College in March 2022 poll found that 31% of Pennsylvania voters believe abortion should be legal under any circumstances, 13% under no circumstances, and 53% under “certain circumstances”. What are the circumstances, the question was not specified.

In an email, House spokesman Jason Gottesman warned that the Republican Party is still awaiting confirmation of the court’s opinion and that “any valid direction or plan will be premature.”

“We will continue to consider laws that support life, and any further decisions will be made in the ordinary course of the legislative process,” Gottesman said.

In a statement, House of Minority Leader Joanna McClinton (D., Philadelphia) said she expected “our hyperconservative legislature, which regularly adopts issues that raise cultural differences,” to “continue to act on yesterday’s SCOTUS news.”

Democrats, she added, “are committed to this fight and will work together with our partners to guarantee women’s rights in the Commonwealth.”

State courts may also play a role in future debates.

A lawsuit considered by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, filed by abortion providers against the state Department of Social Services, may enshrine this procedure as a protected right under the Equal State Protection Equal Protection Clause. Lawyers for the Women’s Law project are part of a legal team representing suppliers.

The lawsuit alleges that the Pennsylvania Medicaid program discriminates against women and people who give birth by refusing to cover abortions because of “gender stereotypes about the proper role of women.”

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