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Pennsylvania senate approves 20-week abortion ban

[JURIST] The Pennsylvania Senate [official website] on Wednesday approved SB 3 [materials], putting Pennsylvania in line to become the seventeenth state to pass a bill banning abortions past 20 weeks. The bill passed the Senate by a 32-18 vote, leaving it two votes shy of a supermajority able to defeat Governor Tom Wolf's [official website] promised veto. Although this bill has yet to pass the House [official website], a similar bill passed last year. During debate, supporters asserted that they were standing for the unborn, while opponents such as Senator Lisa Baker [official website] questioned the sense of attempting to force such a "consequential" bill through the legislature without allowing the medical community to comment. If Wolf does not veto the bill as expected, it would amend Pennsylvania's current Abortion Control Act to cut off abortions at 20 weeks except in medical emergencies. It would also make the "dilation and evacuation" method, referred to in the bill as a "dismemberment abortion," illegal. According to the State Department of Health, only 348 abortions occurred after 20 weeks statewide in 2014, the last year for which abortion statistics [text] are available. In addition, 1,550 of the approximately 35,000 statewide abortions that year were performed by the dilation and evacuation method.

Abortion rights have been a controversial topic of late, particularly since US President Donald Trump vowed to defund Planned Parenthood. Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson signed a bill into law late last month banning the dilation and evacuation abortion method [JURIST report]. Proponents of the law, titled "The Arkansas Unborn Child Protection from Dismemberment Abortion Act," called the procedure "barbaric" and stated that it required "dismemberment" of the fetus, while opponents stated that the procedure is the safest method of terminating a pregnancy. In October a federal judge blocked a Mississippi law that disqualified [JURIST report] Medicaid benefits for non-therapeutic abortions. Also in October the Oklahoma Supreme Court ruled [JURIST report] that a state law adding new licensing and inspection rules for facilities that perform abortions is unconstitutional.

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