Pennsylvania Democrats Win House Majority, Ensuring Protection of Abortion Rights
Pennsylvania Democrats won three special elections, giving them control of the state House of Representatives for the first time in more than a decade.
Democrats secured the majority in Pennsylvania’s House of Representatives for the first time in more than a decade, giving them the power to block Republican legislation on abortion rights.
The Democrats won three special elections Tuesday, giving them a one-seat majority in the chamber. This is the first time they have held the majority since 2010, although Republicans still control the state Senate.
The slim but powerful majority now gives Democrats the power to block major Republican legislation, including a constitutional amendment stripping away protections for abortion rights.
Republicans passed a bill in July, just two weeks after Roe v. Wade was overturned, that would have amended the state constitution to declare there is no right to abortion in Pennsylvania. It would also have said there is no guarantee that taxpayer funds can be used for abortions.
The GOP controlled both the House and Senate at the time, and the bill passed easily. Then-Governor Tom Wolf had vowed to veto any abortion restriction laws, and current Governor Josh Shapiro similarly supports reproductive rights. But the bill was passed as part of a larger omnibus package that bypassed the governor and would create a new constitutional amendment that would be voted on by Pennsylvania residents.
Currently, anyone seeking an abortion in Pennsylvania must undergo state-mandated counseling designed to discourage them from getting the procedure and then wait 24 hours before proceeding. Abortion is not covered by insurance plans offered under the Affordable Care Act except in cases of rape, incest, or if the pregnant person’s life is in danger. The procedure is banned after 24 weeks except to save the pregnant person’s life.
The new bill needs to pass two legislative sessions, but the governor would be unable to stop the measure from going to a public vote if it does.
But with Democrats now in control of one of the chambers, the anti-abortion legislation is unlikely to pass.
There’s no guarantee it would have succeeded if it were put to a vote, though: Abortion rights helped deliver historic wins to Democrats during the midterm elections, including for Pennsylvania Senator John Fetterman.
Five states had abortion rights–related measures on the ballot, and all five voted to protect access to the procedure.
Unfortunately, Republicans have proved they have no chill when things don’t go their way. In Kansas, after residents overwhelmingly voted in August to keep abortion rights in the state constitution, the state legislature is still trying to pass laws that would restrict abortion access.