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Pennsylvania Senate bill would give voters say in abortion, voter ID

By Anthony Hennen | The Center Square

(The Center Square) – A late-night Republican push for a constitutional amendment declaring no right to an abortion has caused controversy.

The resolution would also change elections to require voter ID, raise the voting age to 21, and allow gubernatorial candidates to pick their running mate for lieutenant governor, rather than have two separate races.

Senate Bill 106 would amend Article I of the Pennsylvania Constitution to read: “This Constitution does not grant the right to taxpayer-funded abortion or any other right relating to abortion.”

The amendment would be a way to avoid a veto from Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf, who has promised to defend abortion as long as he serves as governor.

During a session on Friday debating the bill, Senate Republicans argued that voters deserve a choice on abortion law.

The amendment, which would need to be approved by voters, would allow “voters to decide whether taxpayers should be required to pay for abortions,” said Sen. David Argall, R-Berks/Schuylkill. “We have no choice but to turn to the constitutional process to give the voters a say.”

Democrats strongly disagreed with the amendment popping up late Thursday night for a vote. 

“This is a straight-up attempt to change the constitution of Pennsylvania to deny women the right to control what happens with their own bodies,” said Sen. Vincent Hughes, D-Montgomery/Philadelphia. The amendment would “make them second-class citizens,” he said.

Some Democrats, however, embraced the idea of letting voters decide as a way to subvert politicking in the General Assembly.

“I’m a yes on this bill because I’m tired of the demagoguing,” said Sen. Lisa Boscola, D-Bethlehem. “Let the voters reject this, let them deliver a message once and for all: a women’s right to choose deserves protection.”

The voter ID amendment raises the voting age and requires valid proof of identification, but also provides an ID at no cost to the voter once their identity is confirmed.

“Showing ID is not a controversial topic,” said Sen. Mike Regan, R-Cumberland/York. “This amendment is the first step to protecting our voting system … there is no justification not to do this.”

The bill passed a Senate vote, 28-22, and heads to the House. Both chambers are majority Republican.

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