Op-Ed: Setting the Record Straight

By Senator Judy Ward

Over the past few weeks, my Senate colleagues have had to continually correct false and misleading statements regarding the recently passed Senate Bill 106. Sadly, the misrepresentations have continued, and it has become increasingly necessary for me as a sponsor of one of the bill’s amendments to join them in their efforts.

Senate Bill 106 consists of five different amendments to the Pennsylvania constitution with the subjects being the election of the Lieutenant Governor, legislative disapproval of regulations, voter ID, auditing of elections by the Auditor General, and taxpayer funding of abortions. 

These amendments become part of the Pennsylvania constitution if the legislature passes Senate Bill 106 in two consecutive legislative sessions followed by a majority of voters approving each of the amendments individually at the ballot box. 

To correct what has been reported in numerous media outlets, if this legislation is approved by voters, it would not be the result of undemocratic procedures and a General Assembly that was deaf to the will of the people. Rather, Senate Bill 106 gives the people of Pennsylvania a voice. It would be the most democratic and fair method for lawmaking that is available to us as citizens, as it requires both representative democracy when our legislature votes on the amendment and direct democracy where the people get the final say at the ballot box.  

There have been many falsehoods circulating about what the amendments would do. The most egregious are the reports on the amendment relating to abortion. 

For background, Allegheny Reproductive Health Center is suing the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, arguing that there is a right to abortion in our Constitution. This is despite previous court precedent and state and federal law that indicate otherwise. This “right” they are asking the court to find would apply to all nine months of pregnancy and would force taxpayers to pay for abortions.

The amendment would simply preserve the status quo, keeping the fate of abortion policy out of the hands of the courts and in the hands of those who are accountable to the people, their elected representatives in the legislature. 

There have been claims that the amendment is an abortion ban. This is completely false. Unfortunately, the falsehoods don’t stop there. Some have reported that if this amendment goes into effect, people’s ability to use in vitro fertilization (IVF) treatments will be at risk. Others state that ectopic pregnancies will be forced to term regardless of if doing so would kill the mother, or that D&C procedures will be outlawed, forcing those who have miscarriages to risk serious infection and disease. None of those statements are true.    

Here are the facts. Should the abortion provision of Senate Bill 106 be approved by the voters, Pennsylvanians will continue to have a statutory right to an abortion under Pennsylvania’s Abortion Control Act. That Act would remain in place and unchanged.  Medicaid will continue to cover both non-elective abortions and voluntary abortions involving cases of rape or incest but will still withhold funding for all other elective instances. IVF, ectopic pregnancies, and D&C procedures would be allowed under the same rules that exist today, and doctors will continue to save women’s lives in the event of life-threatening complications during pregnancy.  

With Senate Bill 106, the fate of abortion law in Pennsylvania will be left up to the people’s elected representatives through the legislative process. Policymaking on abortion will be taken out of the hands of the courts and placed exactly where it belongs; in the hands of the people, first through a ballot referendum and then through their elected officials.  

Our job as elected representatives is to create public policy that represents the will of the people. I can think of no better way to do that than by putting these issues in front of the voters through Senate Bill 106.