Pennsylvania House Passes Bill to Safeguard: HARRISBURG — Lawmakers in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives swiftly passed a bill aimed at safeguarding expectant mothers traveling from states that have restricted abortion rights to the commonwealth for reproductive care, achieving this feat in just three weeks.
The state representatives voted 117-86 to push forward House Bill 1786, designed to prevent Pennsylvania courts from collaborating with investigations seeking to enforce out-of-state anti-abortion laws.
The vote received backing from 15 Republicans and all but one Democratic member — Rep. Frank Burns, who opposed the bill. Now, the legislation moves to the state Senate, where a Republican majority raises doubts about its chances of consideration, let alone securing a favorable floor vote for becoming law.
Introduced by Democrat Rep. Mary Jo Daley on Oct. 24, the proposed legislation advanced along party lines, clearing the House Judiciary Committee on Monday and the House Appropriations Committee on Wednesday before gaining approval on the floor — a rapid progression in a legislative system known for its typically slow and deliberate pace.
Reflecting on the U.S. Supreme Court’s Dobbs decision, which reversed nearly 50 years of precedent on abortion access, House Speaker Rep. Joanna McClinton emphasized the necessity of the bill. She stated, “In Pennsylvania, we won’t allow extremists from other states to use our courts and law enforcement to assist in the harassment of women seeking healthcare or health care providers delivering care.”
Under the terms of the bill, judges would be stripped of the authority to order the service of court papers, and county prothonotaries would be prohibited from issuing subpoenas related to the enforcement of out-of-state abortion bans.
The bill aims to prevent Pennsylvania law enforcement from taking individuals into custody based on anti-abortion allegations. It also specifies that out-of-state law enforcement lacks the authority to make arrests in the commonwealth for such alleged crimes, with even the governor barred from ordering such arrests.
During the Judiciary Committee’s review of the bill, supporters argued for its necessity in protecting vulnerable expectant mothers seeking healthcare in Pennsylvania, where abortion remains legal up to 24 weeks.
Opponents raised concerns that the bill could strip victims of botched reproductive care, or crimes committed during such care, from seeking legal remedy. Questions also arose about potential violations of the U.S. Constitution’s Full Faith and Credit Clause, which stipulates that states respect laws and court judgments from other states.
In the aftermath of the Dobbs decision last year, 14 states enacted abortion bans, and Alabama’s attorney general went so far as to threaten prosecution for anyone aiding another person in seeking an abortion out of state.
The U.S. Department of Justice emphasized that the U.S. Constitution protects interstate travel to engage in lawful conduct, such as undergoing an abortion in a state like Pennsylvania where it remains legal.