In the wake of a Supreme Court decision that overturned a woman’s right to an abortion on a federal level, Gov. Tom Wolf took executive action Tuesday seeking to protect people from other states who obtain abortions in Pennsylvania.
The order prohibits executive employees and entities under the governor’s jurisdiction – including state agencies, boards, commissions and councils – from assisting other states with efforts to investigate or penalize people who travel to Pennsylvania for an abortion.
The executive action taken by Wolf also urges state agencies to consider policies that protect medical professionals in the commonwealth from facing disciplinary actions sought by other states as a consequence of providing reproductive health care services.
In a statement accompanying the executive order, Wolf said the action affirms “that individuals seeking and providing reproductive health services are safe in the commonwealth from discipline and prosecution.”
“Everyone, whether a resident of Pennsylvania or elsewhere, deserves access to health care. As long as I am governor, I will do everything in my power to protect that right,” Wolf added.
Wolf has been a vocal critic of the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to overturn its 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling, saying Tuesday that the decision “has invoked fear and uncertainty across our nation but especially in states where access to reproductive health care services is being questioned and, in some cases, banned.”
The order signed by Wolf also asks agencies under his purview “to consider implementing steps that would help inform the public about reproductive health care,” including by publicizing information related to the cost and availability of “reproductive health care services.”
Wolf has vowed to veto abortion ban proposals sent to his desk by state lawmakers, but with Wolf’s term nearing an end, the state’s race for governor this fall between Attorney General Josh Shapiro and state Sen. Doug Mastriano has taken on a newfound importance with abortion rights now in the spotlight.
Wolf’s executive order, however, does nothing to change abortion access in Pennsylvania, as the state’s Abortion Control Act remains in effect. Under the law, abortions are allowed through the first 24 weeks of pregnancy, but prohibited after that. The law currently includes an exception that allows abortion after 24 weeks when a mother’s life is in danger.
Wolf’s move to take executive action on abortion prompted opposition from the Pennsylvania Family Institute, a conservative organization that opposes abortion. The organization took issue with language in the executive order that suggests executive agencies to publicize information about abortion access.
“This new executive order just confirms Gov. Wolf’s title as Pennsylvania’s most extreme governor on abortion,” Michael Geer, the president of the Pennsylvania Family Institute, said in a statement. “Just as Pennsylvanians do not want their tax dollars paying for abortions, they also do not want government, through the use of tax dollars, advertising and promoting abortion. Pennsylvanians should not be forced into subsidizing the marketing plan for Planned Parenthood and the abortion industry with taxpayer funds.”
The executive order comes after state lawmakers advanced a proposed constitutional amendment that would declare that the state constitution does not establish a right to abortion, nor does it establish a right to taxpayer-funded abortions. That proposed amendment, contained in Senate Bill 106, would also have no bearing on the language in the Abortion Control Act if ultimately approved by voters.