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Reps push anti-abortion bills

A new push to restrict abortion rights in Pennsylvania comes as other states pass similar laws, and as the Supreme Court prepares to hear a po­­tentially monumental case.

State lawmakers moved three anti-abortion bills through committee last week and onto the floor for possible votes. While there’s little chance they would make it into law over Gov. Tom Wolf’s veto, they underscore a sense of opportunity among anti-abortion activists nationwide.

“Whether the governor vetoes this legislation is irrelevant,” said state Rep. Stephanie Borowicz, R-Clinton, whose bill banning many abortions made it past committee this week. “Ultimately, I am fully accountable to Almighty God, the author of life, whose word proclaims that he knew us before we were knitted together in our mother’s womb.”

Borowicz’s written statement suggests anti-abortion advocates are becoming more confident: She said bills like hers are “driving another legislative dagger” through the constitutional right to an abortion as ruled in Roe v. Wade.

Her bill, cosponsored by dozens of fellow lawmakers, would require doctors to check for a fetal heartbeat and would ban abortions in cases where one is detected. That would effectively ban all abortions after the earliest weeks of pregnancy.

Similar bills have already passed on several GOP-dominated states, often sparking court battles.

Earlier this month, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott signed a so-called “heartbeat bill,” as well as a measure that would allow private citizens to sue abortion providers. Elsewhere, cities and local governments are moving to ban abortion within their borders.

Pennsylvania lawmakers are attacking from several angles. A bill by state Rep. Kate Klunk, R-York, banning abortions for fetuses found to have Down syndrome passed through committee Tuesday.

Similar efforts by state Sen. Judy Ward, R-Blair, passed in the Senate before but never made it into law.

Last week, a proposal by state Rep. Francis X. Ryan, R-Lebanon, requiring cremation or burial of fetal remains made it closer to a House vote.

Individually, the efforts are little more than gestures. But taken together — and with all three moving through committee in party-line votes — they show Republican lawmakers are ready for more favorable conditions.

Many are counting on the U.S. Supreme Court, which just agreed to take up a case that could potentially re­­verse abortion rights across the country. The high court, controlled six to three by conservatives, agreed to rule on a Mississippi law that severely limits the right there.

The latest bills haven’t moved onto the House floor without opposition. Last week, members of the Women’s Health Caucus gathered at the Capitol to register their opposition.

“(The bills) constitute the biggest multi-pronged attack on abortion that we have seen in Pennsylvania in recent memory,” said state Rep. Mary Jo Daley, D-Montgomery. “We are here today to pledge to the women of Pennsylvania that we will continue to stand up for their right to choose.”

Wolf vowed to stop any of the bills if they make it out of the General Assembly.

Calling them “appalling,” he said: “I will veto any anti-choice legislation that lands on my desk.”

Fulton gets attention

Tiny Fulton County drew national attention this week, after reports revealed a private company audited its 2020 election ballots at the urging of state GOP lawmakers.

According to a report in the Arizona Mirror last week — citing county records and the Fulton County News — auditors reviewed the small county’s election results be­­­­­­­fore they moved on to a bigger audit in Arizona. The audits by Pennsylvania-based Wake TSI are tied to former president Donald Trump’s allegations of election fraud since his November defeat.

Much remains unclear about the private review of the Fulton County records, including who paid for it. County officials told reporters they did not pay for the review but allowed it to proceed in the interest of transparency.

Fulton County is a curious choice for an audit meant to prove Trump’s fraud allegations, as more than 6,800 of the county’s roughly 8,000 presidential votes went to Trump. Since then, Trump allies have launched a massive review of Arizona ballots.

To-go drinks may stay

Pennsylvanians could soon have the permanent option to drink takeout cocktails, after a House vote this week sent a bill closer to passage.

A bill to formally legalize takeout drinks from bars and restaurants passed 187-14 Tuesday. If it passes the Senate, it will go to Wolf.

Restaurants with liquor licenses have already had the temporary option to sell takeout cocktails amid the pandemic. State Licensed Beverage & Tavern Association leaders praised the move.

“(The) pandemic forced many industries to innovate,” they said. “As crazy as this might sound, one of the innovative breakthroughs and bright spots of the year for our industry was the cocktail-to-go … something so simple that it makes you wonder why licensed establishments couldn’t do this before.”

Ryan Brown covers statewide politics for Ogden Newspapers. He can be reached at rbrown@altoonamirror.com.

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