Earlier this week, the Pennsylvania House Health Committee approved Senate Bill 3 (SB 3), which is a piece of pro-life legislation that prohibits doctors from performing dilation and evacuation (D&E) abortions. A D&E abortion, otherwise known as a “dismemberment abortion,” is a barbaric second-trimester abortion technique that essentially involves using medical forceps to rip fetuses, sometimes limb from limb, out of their mothers. In addition to banning dismemberment abortions, SB 3 would also ban abortions after twenty weeks.
Unfortunately, while this vote is certainly a step in the right direction, there’s still a long way to go. This is because, even if it’s ultimately passed by the full House, where it’s headed next, there’s no guarantee that it’ll be signed into law due to the fact that Tom Wolf (D), the state’s Governor, has vowed to veto the legislation if it makes it to his desk.
“Put simply, women’s health care decisions should be left up to women and their doctors, not politicians in Harrisburg,” explained Wolf when asked about SB 3, noting, “[it] flies in the face of everything I stand for.”
What’s worse, even if it does eventually get passed, the battle still wouldn’t be over as it’ll likely be overturned in court, which is what has recently happened to similar pieces of legislation. Earlier this month, for instance, Judge Lee Yeakel, a federal judge with the United States District Court for the Western District of Texas, ruled that SB 8, which is a Texas law prohibiting doctors from performing dismemberment abortions, is unconstitutional. According to Judge Yeakel, such a cruel and unusual procedure must not be prohibited because it’s one of the easiest methods available.
“The State’s valid interest in promoting respect for the life of the unborn, although legitimate, is not sufficient to justify such a substantial obstacle to the constitutionally protected right of a woman to terminate a pregnancy before fetal viability,” reasoned Yeakel in his decision.
“That a woman may make the decision to have an abortion before a fetus may survive outside her womb is solely and exclusively the woman’s decision. The power to make this decision is her right,” he explained, adding, “requiring a woman to undergo an unwanted, risky, invasive, and experimental procedure in exchange for exercising her right to choose an abortion, substantially burdens that right.”
To clarify, he stated, “the evidence before the court is graphic and distasteful…[but it’s] germane only to the state’s interest in the dignity of fetal life and is weighed on the state’s side of the scale,” noting, “it does not remove weight from the woman’s side. And it does not add weight to tip the balance in the state’s favor.”
In addition to SB 8, a similar law in Alabama was also recently struck down by a federal judge. Specifically, Myron Thompson, a senior United States District Judge of the United States District Court for the Middle District of Alabama, ruled several weeks ago that the state of Alabama cannot prohibit dismemberment abortions.
In addition to banning dismemberment abortions, Thompson also overturned a state law banning abortion clinics from operating within 2,000 feet of elementary and middle schools.
“The court finds the fetal-demise law effectively terminates the right to abortion for Alabama women at 15 weeks. Because it imposes an undue burden on the right of women in Alabama to obtain a pre-viability abortion, the court holds the fetal-demise law unconstitutional,” explained Thompson in his written decision before asserting that he doesn’t believe the government has a strong justification for the law, which he claimed places an “undue burden” on women.
To clarify, he explained that “the fetal-demise law imposes a substantial burden in at least two interacting ways.”
First, it “imposes significant health risks on most women who choose to have an abortion by requiring them to undergo a fetal-demise procedure that is unsafe or experimental.” And second, it “makes standard D&E–the only method of second-trimester abortion available in Alabama as a practical matter–largely unavailable because no safe, non-experimental methods are feasible in the vast majority of cases.”
Regardless of these rulings, conservatives must continue doing everything they can to put an end to dismember abortions. Doing so will help better protect the dignity of unborn children as well as uphold the Eighth Amendment.