Local officials, advocates respond to death of Roe v. Wade

click to enlarge Local officials, advocates respond to death of Roe v. Wade
CP Photo: Lisa Cunningham
Anti-abortion protesters celebrate the Roe v. Wade ruling and hand out literature to passersby outside Downtown Pittsburgh's Planned Parenthood location on Fri., June 24, 2022.

Although anticipated for months, today’s announcement that Roe v. Wade will no longer protect the right to abortion has set off shockwaves around the nation and here in Pittsburgh.

Democratic officeholders and abortion advocates say they will work to ensure abortion remains legal in Pennsylvania, while Republicans laud the seismic overturn of legal precedent.

A press release issued by Planned Parenthood of Western Pennsylvania reminds local residents abortion remains legal and available in the Commonwealth, but notes, “anti-abortion legislators are attempting to change the Pennsylvania state constitution with an extreme bill proposing to permanently amend our constitution and remove any state protection for abortion access.”

PPWP President and CEO Sydney Etheredge issued a statement attempting to assure those contemplating abortions now or in the future.

“Planned Parenthood of Western Pennsylvania wants to let those who are seeking an abortion know that we are here for you. Your decision to control your lives, bodies, and futures should be yours, and yours alone, and we will not compromise on this.“

Local officeholders including Pittsburgh Mayor Ed Gainey have also weighed in on the news, with the mayor insisting he “will do whatever it takes to protect and defend that right in Pittsburgh and across our entire Commonwealth.”

“We must ensure that people can make decisions about their bodies, their lives, and their futures and all of us must recommit ourselves to the work of making America more just and equal for everyone," Gainey says.

The U.S. Supreme Court’s overturning of reproductive rights at the federal level will turn the spotlight on state legislatures, which now have the power to pass laws restricting abortions.

In Pennsylvania, Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf has vowed to veto any anti-abortion bills in the state, but his seat expires in November, when he will be replaced by either Democrat Josh Shapiro or Republican Doug Mastriano.

Shapiro issued a statement this morning voicing his opposition to the ruling, and vowed as current attorney general to protect the practice of reproductive health care from legal challenges.

“While this decision has no immediate impact here in Pennsylvania, it opens the door for our legislature to ban or criminalize abortion by simply passing a law—because there are no longer federal protections," Shapiro says. "I will fight any attempt to erode women's rights in our Commonwealth.”

Meanwhile, Mastriano, a stanch conservative, has frequently indicated support for restricting abortion in Pennsylvania. In a press statement issued at the time of the May 3 court leak, Mastriano referred to the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision as “one of the darkest days in American history.” He went on to refer to abortion as “anti-scientific genocide” and heralded former President Donald Trump’s role in securing a conservative majority in the courts.

Mastriano, a current Pennsylvania senator, introduced a bill to that would require physicians to determine “whether the baby has a heartbeat” before performing an abortion. The bill, introduced in 2021, has six co-sponsors but hasn’t made it out of the health committee.

Separately, a move to ammend the Pennsylvania constitution to include language prohibiting support or funding for abortions is also moving through the General Assembly. If it passes, the move must then be approved by voters in a statewide ballot referendum.

Across the state, other Republican officeholders have heralded the ruling as a conservative victory that grants states the right to choose their own laws and policies.

“Today's ruling is a major victory for the pro-life movement, but our work has only begun," says Mike Kelly, a Pennsylvania Republican Congressman from Butler County. "All little boys and little girls deserve a chance at life, and this ruling ensures they will get that chance."

Below, we've curated a range of local responses:

  • Pa. State Rep. Austin Davis (D-McKeesport) and Democratic candidate for Pa. Lieutenant Governor
    “Reversing Roe v. Wade is not only an attack on the right to an abortion but puts a person’s essential freedoms, including their ability to make decisions about their own body, at risk. The consequences of this decision are severe and far-reaching. Restricting abortion access can threaten the health of pregnant people and babies, increase maternal mortality rates and force low-income women and families to face further financial hardships."

  • Pa. Sen. Lindsey Williams (D-West View)
    "I am completely devastated over today’s Supreme Court ruling in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, which has overturned the right to a safe, legal abortion in this country, but I am ready to fight back. I will always stand for a woman’s right to healthcare, and that includes abortion. Deciding if, when, and with whom to start or grow a family is a human right. I trust people to make the best decisions about their lives, families and their healthcare. This fight is about our right to privacy and our right to bodily autonomy."

  • Laura Nevitt, Operations Manager of Keystone Progress
    "We got gut-wrenching news today. The Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, the case that protected our right to abortion in the U.S. With its cruel decision on Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization, the court gave states the right to ban abortion. For the first time EVER, it stole a right it once granted Americans. Who knows what rights we'll lose next? We can grieve now, but not for long, because this is the time that WE MUST FIGHT for our rights — the right to control our bodies and to protect our privacy. Politicians should NOT have the power to make our medical decisions for us."

  • Pa. Lt. Gov. John Fetterman (2022 candidate for U.S Senate):
    “Deciding how and when to become a mother is a decision that should always be made by a woman and her doctor — not politicians. If there were any doubts left about what’s at stake in this race, it became crystal clear today. The right to an abortion will be on the ballot this November in Pennsylvania. I will protect abortion rights. Dr. Oz will take them away. It’s that simple.”

  • Pittsburgh Mayor Ed Gainey:
    "Today’s ruling by the Supreme Court is an attack on the civil and human rights of our entire country. Abortion is healthcare and denying the right to bodily autonomy of women, trans men, non-binary, and disabled people in America is stripping them of their fundamental right to privacy. Abortion is still legal in Pennsylvania and I will do whatever it takes to protect and defend that right in Pittsburgh and across our entire Commonwealth. We must ensure that people can make decisions about their bodies, their lives, and their futures and all of us must recommit ourselves to the work of making America more just and equal for everyone."

  • Pa. Attorney General Josh Shapiro (2022 candidate for Pa. governor)
    “The Dobbs decision will go down as a shameful moment for our country and for the Court. Today, five Supreme Court Justices upended fifty years of settled law and subjected the health and private lives of millions of American women to the whims of politicians. As a result of today’s decision, every American's personal freedoms now depend on the state in which they live. Here in Pennsylvania, decisions about your bodies will now be left to elected officials in Harrisburg– giving those politicians more power than women in our Commonwealth."

  • Pa. Gov. Tom Wolf
    “First and most importantly, it is critical that everyone understands that abortion services are available and unharmed in Pennsylvania by today’s Supreme Court action. Providers may still provide reproductive health care services and patients should continue the health care plan they’ve developed with their physicians. Nonetheless, I am deeply disappointed in today’s Supreme Court opinion and the impact this decision will have nationwide. The right to bodily autonomy—and privacy as a whole—is under attack in this country. We must do more to protect the rights of women and pregnant people in every state across the country that doesn’t have a governor willing to wield their veto pen."

  • U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Lehigh):
    “The U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling on Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization restores the American people’s ability to determine abortion laws through their elected representatives, as the Constitution requires. Precedents that are wrongly decided should be overturned, just as Brown v. Board of Education was right to overturn Plessy v. Ferguson. This ruling is a win for the unborn, the Constitution, and democratic governance.

  • Planned Parenthood Pennsylvania Advocates Executive Director Signe Espinoza:
    “Roe vs Wade was a landmark decision in abortion rights and access to medical care. Today’s decision threatens those most basic freedoms, invades our privacy, and questions our autonomy. This decision allows states far more control over our bodies, but right now, abortion remains legal in Pennsylvania and PPPA will fight to keep it that way. Furthermore, PPPA is going to continue its advocacy to make abortion accessible to every Pennsylvanian who needs one."

  • Planned Parenthood of Western Pennsylvania President and CEO Sydney Etheredge:
    “I am saddened by the Supreme Court’s decision today. While we knew this could be our reality following the leaked opinion, knowing now that we will be living in a post-Roe world is heartbreaking. For now, abortion is still legal in Pennsylvania, and we will do everything in our power to keep it that way. Planned Parenthood of Western Pennsylvania wants to let those who are seeking an abortion know that we are here for you. Your decision to control your lives, bodies, and futures should be yours, and yours alone, and we will not compromise on this.“

  • U.S. Rep. Mike Kelly (R-Butler):
    "Today's ruling is a major victory for the pro-life movement, but our work has only begun. All little boys and little girls deserve a chance at life, and this ruling ensures they will get that chance. The right to life is not just for some of us. It is for all of us. I want to speak directly to those who have had abortions and struggle with their decision: you should know that forgiveness and grace – for yourself and others – will help heal those emotional wounds. As we move forward, I encourage everyone to remember a core tenet of this country that still holds true today: each of us has the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness."

  • Pa. House Republican Leaders Bryan Cutler (R-Lancaster) and House Majority Leader Kerry Benninghoff (R-Centre/Mifflin):
    “Today’s Supreme Court ruling reestablishes the authority of states to regulate abortion. The ruling once again makes clear it is the authority of individual states to establish laws that are in the best interest of their residents. It is important to point out Pennsylvania’s Abortion Control Act remains in effect, and places firm restrictions on abortions in our Commonwealth including a ban on all late-term abortion procedures. This ruling presents a necessary opportunity to examine our existing abortion law, and discussions around possible changes are already underway.”

  • Pa. Sen. Jay Costa (D-Forest Hills)
    “I am disheartened by the Supreme Court’s decision to strike down Roe v. Wade. Despite today’s action, Senate Democrats stand firm in our commitment to do everything we can to preserve and maintain legal and safe access to abortion in Pennsylvania. Abortion is healthcare. Any decision by the Supreme Court to take away healthcare and an individual's bodily autonomy is, in our opinion, a violation of the Supreme Court’s authority and interpretation of our Constitution."

  • Pa. Rep. Jessica Benham (D-South Side):
    "This decision is a disgrace to women and to the Constitution. And it can be overruled by a Democratic Congress. All of us who care about progress and democracy need to come together and stick together."

  • President of SisTers PGH Ciora Thomas:
    "The stakes have never been higher for reproductive rights, for LGBTQ+ rights, for human rights, in this country that refuses to dismantle its oppressive, archaic, fascist system that holds down anyone who is not white and cisgender. Everyone, from individual activists to church and community leaders and legislators, must play a role in this deconstruction and ending the medical and social apartheid that is taking us backwards to a place no society deserves to be."

  • U.S. Rep. Conor Lamb (D-Mt. Lebanon):
    "This decision is a disgrace to women and to the Constitution. And it can be overruled by a Democratic Congress. All of us who care about progress and democracy need to come together and stick together."

  • Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald:
    "I’m the father of eight, including six daughters. My wife and I worked hard to ensure that every one of our children were treated equally and had the same opportunities. Today, the @USSupremeCourt has taken us backwards with this decision. It takes away my daughters’ autonomy and that of every other woman in this country. It’s staggering and unfathomable that attacks against women like this are coming from the highest Court in the land. I’m committed to work, and now even more motivated, to ensure that we elect people across the board in November who will protect and further women’s rights in this country, not subvert them."

  • President and CEO of New Voices for Reproductive Justice La'Tasha Mayes (and Pa. Rep. candidate):
    “To hear the news that Roe v. Wade was overturned still hit me like a ton of bricks. We have been operating under this false idea that women, transgender and non-binary folx have control over our bodies when the reality is — our government has control over our bodies.”

  • Pa. Rep. Summer Lee (D-Swissvale) and U.S. Rep. candidate:
    "A sad, shameful day. We lost our right to abortion care b/c of right-wing extremists appointed to lifetime seats. It's horrible & unsurprising, but it's not over. We have to do everything we can to defend this right in states where abortion rights are still protected. In Pennsylvania, the only thing standing between our rights and the extreme bans of the Republican legislature is a Democratic Governor. At the federal level, we have to decriminalize reproductive healthcare and ensure states have the resources to provide care & fund clinics. It's a grim day for our fundamental rights, especially Black & brown women & birthing folk who are going to be even more impacted by this decision, but we have to keep fighting b/c the truth remains people deserve care & they deserve this freedom & we can't stop til they get it."