It’s Past Time to Encode Reproductive Rights Into PA Law

women's health and wellnessImage by Ginger U
Op-Ed by State Rep. Kristine Howard (D-Chester)

Yes, the U.S. Supreme Court is ready to strike down Roe v. Wade. But while the draft majority opinion obtained by Politico is frightening, it is hardly shocking. We knew this was coming – the justices met and voted in December.

We can take a moment to breathe and remember that this is a three-month-old draft, not a final opinion. That said, the clock is ticking, and a final opinion is expected over the summer.

Let this serve as a rallying cry. Our plans for the future must be more than a vague hope a justice or two changes their mind before the decision is published.

Indeed, we have relied far too much on the Supreme Court for the past half-century. Rather than codifying reproductive rights into law, legislatures – both state and federal – have tacitly adopted a policy of simply pointing to a Supreme Court decision. We turned temporary relief into long-term policy without actually enacting anything. As Justice Alito himself points out in the draft, “[Roe v. Wade] concluded with a numbered set of rules much like those that might be found in a statute enacted by a legislature.”

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Relying entirely on the Supreme Court, we became complacent, leaving the power over reproductive freedom entirely with the court. Facing the distinct possibility that these rights will now lack federal protection, it is up to the individual states to uphold reproductive rights.

Decisions regarding reproductive health are extremely personal and intimate. These can also be medically complex decisions, requiring the advice of a doctor as individuals work to determine what is best for themselves and their families. Relying on a fickle federal judiciary is no way to uphold these rights.

We must join our neighbors in New Jersey and Delaware in enshrining reproductive rights here in Pennsylvania. This is why I introduced HB 733 last year, which would finally and rightfully encode Roe v. Wade’s protections into Pennsylvania law.

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Americans should not live in fear that the personnel changes of a nine-member judicial bench will invalidate their rights. Passing this legislation is the only way to protect Pennsylvanians’ reproductive rights.

Kristine Howard (D-Chester) was elected state representative for the 167th Legislative District in November 2018. The district includes Charlestown, East Whiteland, Easttown, West Pikeland, West Whiteland, Willistown Township, and Malvern Borough.

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