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Protesters gathered outside the Supreme Court on May 3 after the leak that the court would overturn Roe v. Wade. Photo: Kent Nishimura/The Los Angeles Times via Getty Images.
Protesters gathered outside the Supreme Court on May 3 after the leak that the court would overturn Roe v. Wade. Photo: Kent Nishimura/The Los Angeles Times via Getty Images.

With Roe v. Wade likely over, all eyes are on the midterms for a glimpse of the future

Should elections in 2022 fall a certain way, especially in PA, the future of abortion in the state could be on shaky ground.

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With the recent draft leak of the Supreme Court’s majority opinion overturning Roe v. Wade, the future of abortion access may be left to the states.

More than 20 states have laws that could restrict or ban abortion soon after the high court overturns the 1973 ruling, according to the Guttmacher Institute.

One type of measure, known as a “trigger law,” is designed to take effect after a Supreme Court ruling. Some states also still have pre-Roe abortion bans that haven’t yet been enforced. Other provisions express the intent of states to crack down on abortion if the Supreme Court allows it.

Some Democratic states have already taken steps to preserve reproductive rights. From Colorado to New Jersey, governors have signed laws protecting the right to abortion and stated their intention to permit out-of-state individuals to travel there to receive the procedure.

If Roe v. Wade is in fact overturned, abortion would immediately become illegal in at least 13 states, but none of them are located in the Northeast or Mid-Atlantic regions.

Where does PA stand?

In Pennsylvania, abortion will remain legal for up to about 24 weeks, but protections are still in jeopardy. While the state doesn’t have any laws that codify citizens’ right to an abortion, there aren’t any “trigger laws” for a ban to go into effect if the ruling is overturned.

PA does have a number of abortion restrictions, including a 24-hour waiting period and counseling requirements.

During his tenure, Gov. Tom Wolf has shut down three anti-abortion rights bills and has promised to shut down any related legislation.

“Abortion access in Pennsylvania will remain legal and safe as long as I am governor,” Wolf wrote on Twitter on Tuesday, May 3.

But with a Republican-controlled legislature Wolf’s term ending this year, dynamics could shift. There are more than six Republicans competing in this month’s primary for a spot in the general election in November. They will face off with PA Attorney General Josh Shapiro, who is the only Democrat in the running for governor. 

Shapiro has dedicated himself to protecting the right to choose.

“The vast majority of Pennsylvanians believe women should have sole control over their own bodies. I'm one of them,” Shapiro tweeted on Wednesday, May 4.

Meanwhile, Republican frontrunner for governor, state senator Doug Mastriano is renewing his efforts to pass a bill at the state level that would ban abortions if a doctor can detect a heartbeat, which can happen as early as six weeks into a pregnancy. 

“Thanks to President Trump, a conservative majority on the Supreme Court is set to right this historic wrong. Since I was elected to the Senate, there has been no more important issue to me than the right to life," Mastriano said in a statement.

Republican gubernatorial candidate Lou Barletta praised the Supreme Court draft and pledged to approve future conservative laws around abortion. 

There’s also a constitutional amendment making its way through the state legislature stating that the right to abortion isn’t guaranteed in PA’s constitution. 

Because Pennsylvania is not a “trigger ban” state, it could see a huge surge in people traveling from nearby states for abortion care. 

The Guttmacher Institute estimates that there would be a 1,169% increase in women whose nearest abortion provider would be in the Keystone State if it is banned in neighboring states.

Planned Parenthood Keystone CEO and President Melissa Reed expects to be serving an extra 8,500 more patients from nearby states, but she told WHYY that her organization has been prepping for a crisis like this for months. 

“We have expanded abortion access availability in Pennsylvania through telemedicine, through direct-to-patient medical abortion, where we can mail medical abortion directly to a Pennsylvanian’s home,” Reed said. 

Reed also mentioned Planned Parenthood’s Fund for Choice, which helps people cover the cost of the procedure, travel and childcare. 

New Jersey

Even if Roe is struck down, the right to abortion will still be protected in New Jersey. In January 2022, Gov. Phil Murphy signed into law the Freedom of Reproductive Choice Act which codified an individual’s right to abortion in the state. 

And prior to that legislation, the state’s Board of Medical Examiners chose to get rid of needless barriers to getting the procedure, which granted New Jersey solid protections against a potential overturning. 

Gov. Murphy described the opinion draft as a “truly dark day” for the country, but pledged that New Jersey would not move backwards on reproductive rights. 

At an unrelated event in Lambertville on Tuesday, Murphy said the Supreme Court’s decision will not have any impact on New Jersey state law or the full right to reproductive freedom. 

"This remains fully intact, because here in New Jersey, instead of hoping for the best, we prepared ourselves for the worst,” he said. 

Delaware

Each year, nearly 1 million abortions are performed in the U.S, and in 2019, more than 2,000 of them were performed in Delaware.

Currently, abortion access remains safe in the state. In 2017, the General Assembly passed a law asserting Roe v. Wade protections even if the federal case is overturned. 

Last month, the state also expanded access through passing a bill that would allow more healthcare providers to prescribe medication to terminate pregnancies. 

Current state law allows only physicians to write prescriptions for these medications, which include Mifeprex, Mifepristone, and Misoprostol.

The legislation, which is awaiting a signature from Democratic Gov. John Carney, would permit physician assistants and advanced practice registered nurses to prescribe such medications.

Nationwide: What’s Next?

Anti-abortion lawmakers and activists have vowed to go further than state-level bans, and many have embarked on a full-force push for Congress to enact a federal ban that would outlaw abortion in all 50 states. 

Last month, anti-abortion groups sent a letter to congressional republican leaders, urging them to commit to a “bold, clear, and articulate plan to protect the most vulnerable group among us, the unborn.” 

But at the same time, the Biden administration and Democratic leaders have promised to pursue a path to enshrine reproductive rights in federal law. 

“It is my intention for the Senate to hold a vote on legislation to codify the right to abortion in law," Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said on Tuesday, May 3.

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