HARRISBURG — The Pennsylvania Senate voted on Friday to pass a set of proposed constitutional amendments, including one that, if ultimately approved by voters, would enshrine in the state constitution that there is no right to abortion or right to government funding for elective abortions.
The measure, Senate Bill 106, passed by a 28-22 margin with one Democrat in favor and two Republicans opposed.
The proposal is now forwarded to the State House for approval. This chamber is in session today and could act on the measure.
The package also includes a separate proposed amendment stating that government-issued ID is required to vote and provides options to acquire free ID.
Other proposed constitutional amendments seek to allow a party’s gubernatorial nominee to select a lieutenant governor nominee, authorize election audits by the Auditor General, and exempt regulatory disapprovals by the Legislative Assembly from be presented to the governor for a possible veto.
A governor cannot veto bills proposing constitutional amendments, a sticking point in arguments over constitutional amendments between Democrats and legislative Republicans.
The former accuse the latter of circumventing the legislative process with a series of proposed amendments. Republicans, however, say Gov. Tom Wolf’s use of the veto requires action by amendments because the two parties cannot work together.
Republican State Senator Judy Ward first introduced the proposed abortion amendment through Senate Bill 956. That wording was changed in the multi-pronged package on Thursday night.
The proposed abortion amendment is not a ban per se, but it would strengthen any restrictions or bans the Legislative Assembly may pass in future years. It is expected to pass through the Senate and House this year and next, potentially implementing statewide ballot voting as early as the spring primary in 2023.
Senate Democrats slammed the abortion proposal as one that undermines women’s bodily autonomy and also slammed Thursday’s midnight vote by a Senate committee to move the bill to the floor for a vote as the focus was on the still unstable state budget which was due on June 30th.
A vote on the budget, which the House approved on Thursday, is scheduled in the Senate later in the day. The debate is now underway.
Republicans in the Senate defended the proposed abortion amendment as protecting the rights of the unborn child while allowing Pennsylvania voters to choose whether or not the amendment makes the constitution.
A Pew Research Center survey found that 61% of American adults say abortion should be legal in all or most cases, with 37% saying it should be illegal in all or most cases. The results have been stable in recent years, according to the Pew Group, but the political partisan divide on the issue is widening.
Democrats have also spoken out against a voter ID requirement, saying it could disenfranchise black voters and other minorities. Republicans defended the measure, saying free ID would be provided and that identification is ubiquitous in contemporary society.