Restrictions that proposed legislation would impose on abortions in Pennsylvania would be “blatantly unconstitutional,” Professor David S. Cohen write in an op-ed essay published in the Philadelphia Inquirer on April 13.
The proposed bill would ban a commonly used surgical procedure – dilation and evacuation – and outlaw all abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy, provisions Cohen describes as “highly problematic.”
If adopted, Cohen said, the law would prevent doctors from choosing the most medically sound method for providing surgical abortion procedures and bar women who face circumstances like mental-health issues or late-diagnosed medical conditions from obtaining abortions.
As recently as 2007, Cohen wrote, the U.S. Supreme Court gave its blessing to the very surgical procedure that some Pennsylvania lawmakers hope to ban. He added that the high court has also consistently ruled that states cannot ban abortion before viability, which is around 24 weeks of pregnancy.
“In short, both parts of the bill being considered in Pennsylvania are clearly unconstitutional,” Cohen said. “As a result, if this bill becomes law, the state is going to be on the hook for a considerable amount of money when it is challenged in court.”
Yet the legislature fast-tracked the bill, with the House adopting it less than a week after it was introduced and publicly disclosed, Cohen noted. While Gov. Tom Wolf has vowed to veto the bill if it passes in the state Senate, Cohen added, there may be enough votes to override a veto.
An authority on gender and the law, Cohen is the co-author of "Living in the Crosshairs: The Untold Stories of Anti-Abortion Terrorism," which was published in 2015 by Oxford University Press.