East Falls Now Article: The Meaning Of Choice

The definition of choice is an act of selecting or making a decision when faced with two or more possibilities.

Recently, in Harrisburg, two bills were voted from the House Health Committee and then voted on final passage from the floor, that will eliminate a woman’s choice pertaining to her pregnancy. 

As of this writing, (the middle of June) both bills are pending in the Senate Health and Human Services Committee.

HB1500, titled Down Syndrome Protection Legislation, prohibits the abortion of any child solely due to a diagnosis of possible Down Syndrome (the language is taken directly from the prime sponsor’s co-sponsorship memo).

HB118, titled Unborn Child Dignity Legislation, is legislation that will establish requirements for the final disposition of the remains of unborn children after their demise. (The language is taken directly from the prime sponsor’s co-sponsorship memo).

My vote on both bills was no.  I received emails from constituents who were in favor of these bills and those who were opposed. Those who were opposed outnumbered those in favor. 

In reference to HB1500, under current law, a woman can obtain an abortion prior to 24 weeks gestational age for any reason if a physician deems it is necessary, except if the woman’s sole reason is to select the sex of the fetus. This bill will expand that exception to prohibit terminating a pregnancy solely due to a prenatal diagnosis that the unborn child has Down Syndrome. 

Of note is the fact that in 2014, Act 130, known as Chloe's Law, requires health care practitioners to provide complete information to women who receive a prenatal diagnosis for Down syndrome.  HB1500, therefore, ensures that regardless of the decision reached after being informed via Chloe’s Law, a woman is prohibited from terminating the pregnancy. There are no allowances for rape or incest and there are no allowances for other health related matters to the fetus.

HB118 mandates the burial or cremation of a pregnancy from conception forward, instead of the current 16 weeks. The legislation is poorly drafted, and my questioning of the prime sponsor during debate on the floor of the House, highlighted the confusion and consternation around this bill.  The prime sponsor stated that parents have the choice to bury or cremate remains. However, the legislation does not expressly permit a woman’s decision to donate her miscarriage for the purposes of research. If anything, the legislation states that if parents want to make a different decision, they must bear the costs of same.  

The bill further complicates a very personal and private matter by stating that if a miscarriage occurs in a health care facility, these rules apply but if such a miscarriage occurs outside a healthcare facility this law does not apply.  It is not even clear how the healthcare facility would comply if the remains of a miscarriage at 4 or 8 weeks, for example, were to occur. 

One group advocating for this legislation stated that “this legislation will give parents the option of either taking the fetal remains or leaving them with the health care facility for cremation or burial. Their rights and all decisions would entirely be their choice.” 

The parents can take the fetal remains?! This is deemed a choice?! 

Please know that a decision such as deciding whether or not a pregnancy should be terminated is a deeply personal decision between a woman, her health care provider and whomever else she chooses.

These situations are highly nuanced with specifics that can be unique to each pregnancy.   My vote on these matters will continue to reflect the fact that we should not be legislating these very personal and difficult decisions and in fact, Roe v. Wade protects a woman's right to safe abortion care.  

I respect women's individual and personal decisions in matters of reproductive health and therefore support a woman's right to choose. 

As always, please reach out with your thoughts and ideas on state policy at RepDeLissio@pahouse.net or at 215-482-8726.