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State lawmakers plan next steps in abortion rights fight

Now that Roe v. Wade is over, state legislatures have become the frontlines of the war over abortion rights.

HARRISBURG, Pa. — Now that Roe v. Wade is over, state legislatures have become the frontlines of the war over abortion rights. State lawmakers, meanwhile, are already planning their next steps.

Both the Democratic and Republican parties in Pennsylvania are counting on the next governor to either protect or take down abortion rights.

Democratic candidate and current state Attorney General Josh Shapiro supports upholding abortion rights, saying in a press briefing on Friday, “We need to protect our fundamental freedoms and that is something that we will do.”

Republican candidate State Sen. Doug Mastriano (R-Adams) refused to answer journalists’ questions regarding abortion on Monday. However he has previously called to ban abortion after six weeks, and has said he would sign a “heartbeat” bill as governor.

Senate Republicans are pursuing another avenue to restrict abortion rights in the states. Mastriano is among the senators to vote for a constitutional amendment that would declare there is no right to abortion in Pennsylvania and would ban use of taxpayer money to fund abortions.

A constitutional amendment must be passed in two consecutive legislative sessions, then approved by voters in a referendum. If the current legislature approves the measure, the issue could go before voters as soon as the 2023 primary elections.

Democrats’ strategy to block that bill relies on winning back control of the state House. Republicans currently control the chamber 113-90, but all 203 seats are up for election in 2022.

“The House is within striking distance of getting a Democratic majority. If that happens that bill will not be able to pass through the House.” said State Sen. Judy Schwank (D-Berks).

Further down the line, Republicans have floated other ideas, such as criminalizing crossing state lines to get an abortion. Legal experts said any such changes to state law could open up a slew of new lawsuits.

“We’re really in very uncharted territory here in terms of what these laws may do,” said John E. Jones III, president of Dickinson College and former District Judge of the U.S. Disctrict Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania. “I think it’s really legally problematic to restrict the travel of citizens to get medical procedures, but it doesn’t mean it won’t be tried.”

For now there has been no change to abortion access in Pennsylvania, where abortions are legal up to 24 weeks of pregnancy.

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