HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP/KDKA) — Republicans who control Pennsylvania's Legislature began Tuesday to advance hot-button bills to restrict abortion rights and expand gun rights, although the bills faced opposition by Democratic lawmakers and certain veto by Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf.
In the House Health Committee, Republicans passed two bills on a party-line basis to further restrict abortion rights.
One would restrict abortion after the detection of a fetal heartbeat, the first time such a bill has emerged from a committee in Pennsylvania's Legislature. It carries an exception for when it is medically necessary to protect the mother.
The bill is similar to that in more than a dozen other states that ban abortions after a fetal heartbeat can be detected, possibly as early as six weeks, before many women even know they are pregnant. Federal courts have mostly blocked states from enforcing similar measures.
The other bill would prohibit an abortion on the basis of a Down syndrome diagnosis. Such legislation has, in past years, been blocked by federal courts in every state where it was challenged, and Gov. Tom Wolf vetoed something identical or similar in 2019.
Gov. Wolf has released this statement on the legislation:
"Throughout my time as governor, I have fought hard against rightwing attempts to limit an individual's right to make their own health care decisions, including by using my pen to veto every anti-choice bill the Pennsylvania General Assembly has passed.
"Once again, members are working to pass anti-choice legislation that would undermine the doctor-patient relationship and limit an individual's right to decide what happens to their body – including re-running appalling bills that I have vetoed in the past.
"I want to be clear: I stand firm in my commitment and support of reproductive rights.
"While members of the legislature continue to play politics around health choices, I will not let the commonwealth go backwards on reproductive rights or access to health care. I will veto any anti-choice legislation that lands on my desk."
However, former President Donald Trump's judicial appointments have begun to allow enforcement of such laws.
Firearms bills also were on tap for votes Tuesday in the House Judiciary Committee.
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