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Split views: Landmark opinion defines sides for Nov. election

KAREN VIBERT-KENNEDY/Sun-Gazette Denise Greninger, left, Francie Hoch, center, and Stephanie Wolfe, right, all of Williamsport protest the overturning of Roe Vs. Wade on the corner on Market and Third Streets in Williamsport on Friday night.

A seismic shift in abortion law decided by a majority of the U.S. Supreme Court Friday resulted in equally divided reactions from those serving greater Williamsport and northcentral Pennsylvania communities.

Minutes after the court struck down its landmark decision in Roe v. Wade that established the right to an abortion, individuals with pro-abortion and anti-abortion viewpoints expressed them for the Sun-Gazette.

A protest was quickly organized Friday evening in Market Square. The city hosts an office of the U.S. Middle District Court nearby at 240 W. Third St.

Affect in Pennsylvania

Dilonna Coran, state director of Concerned women for America Legislative Action Committee, immediately turned the focus on the commonwealth and how the justices’ ruling will apply in this state.

KAREN VIBERT-KENNEDY/Sun-Gazette Latisha Sweeting of Williamsport protest the overturning of Roe vs. Wade at the corner of Market and Third Streets in Williamsport on Friday night.

“Pennsylvania stands ready to welcome women and unborn children,” Coran said.

The pro-life group believed the majority of the court did the right thing in overturning the law after decades of pro-life activism.

“Every child deserves the right to life,” Coran said. “Roe was wrong from the start.”

“Unfortunately, nothing will immediately change for Pennsylvanians,” Coran said.

That is because the fight for women and children now goes to a different level.

KAREN VIBERT-KENNEDY/Sun-Gazette Deedee Burnett, left, of Williamsport protest the overturning of Roe vs. Wade at the corner of Market and Third Streets in Williamsport on Friday night.

The Pennsylvania Abortion Control Act of 1989 keeps abortion legal up to six months of pregnancy.

In post-Roe, Pennsylvania could become a destination state for those seeking an abortion.

According to the Guttmacher Institute, people driving to Pennsylvania seeking an abortion will increase by over 1,000%.

“It is up to the citizens of this great Commonwealth to do our part,” Coran said.

Governor race vital

Coran turned her attention to the governor’s race between Democratic candidate Attorney General Josh Shapiro, who vowed to fight for women’s rights to abortion, and Republican gubernatorial nominee Doug Mastriano, who is adamantly pro-life.

“We must work tirelessly to elect legislators and a governor who support the culture of life and who will pass life-affirming legislation,” Coran said.

Mastriano said previously that Jan. 22, 1973, was one of the darkest days in American history.

“On that day, seven justices of the Supreme Court ruled that the right to life could merely be reduced to a decision of convenience,” Mastriano said.

“Our nation is now on the precipice of reversing this science-denying genocide. Thanks to President (Donald) Trump, a conservative majority on the Supreme Court is set to right this historic wrong. Since I was elected to the Senate, there has been no more important issue to me than the right to life,” Mastriano said.

The Supreme Court decision will be remembered as “a shameful moment,” Shapiro said.

“Today, five Supreme Court Justices upended 50 years of settled law and subjected the health and private lives of millions of American women to the whims of politicians,” he said. “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.

“Let me be clear: For now, abortion remains legal in Pennsylvania,” Shapiro said. “Our laws have not changed with this ruling and abortion is permitted in Pennsylvania through the 23rd week of pregnancy, and afterwards when necessary to protect the life or health of the mother.

“I plan to continue to defend doctors’ ability to practice medicine and women’s right to privacy against any efforts to enforce a defunct rule mandating women notify their husbands of their personal decisions,” Shapiro said.

Half the nation impacted

“Wheels are already in motion to ban abortion in more than half of our country,” Shapiro said.

“I can promise you that if patients travel from those states into Pennsylvania — I will fight to protect them and their doctors from extreme politicians attempting to illegally interfere,” he said.

“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. I will fight any attempt to erode women’s rights in our Commonwealth,” Shapiro said.

Senate race affected

The court striking down Roe v. Wade, also impacts the race for U.S. Senate, as Democratic nominee for U.S. Senate John Fetterman stated: “Deciding how and when to become a mother is a decision that should alway 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,” Fetterman said. “The right to an abortion will be on the ballot this November in Pennyslvania. I will protect abortion rights. Dr. (Mehmet) Oz will take them away. It’s that simple.”

“The Supreme Court decision to overturn Roe v. Wade is, to many, considered controversial,” Oz said in a written statement. “I respect those with a different view, but as a heart surgeon, I’ve held the smallest of human hearts in the palm of my hand and will defend the sanctity of life.

“I am relieved that protecting the lives of America’s unborn children will once again be decided by the people through their elected representatives. As we lift up life, we must focus on the needs of mothers and children, for whom this decision can be the greatest gift of all.”

Before the May 17 primary, Oz turned more ardently anti-abortion, touting himself as “100% pro-life” and celebrating the draft opinion by saying he supports overturning Roe v. Wade.

Gov. Tom Wolf responds

In response to the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision on Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization and the dismantling of the landmark Roe v. Wade, which had protected access to abortion, Wolf stated: “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, Wolf said.

“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, Wolf said.

“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,” he said.

“As we approach a critical election cycle here in Pennsylvania, I cannot stress enough how important it is to exercise your personal right to vote.

Elections matter

“This decision did not happen overnight,” Wolf noted.

“Right-wing extremists have been strategically planning to dismantle decades-long decisions to further their agendas and divide our country with policies designed to infringe upon our freedoms.

“They have done so one vote at a time, one election at a time across our beloved nation. We cannot allow this to continue.

“Americans are feeling defeated and angry today, and I don’t blame them. However, as long as I am governor, I vow to protect abortion access and reproductive health care in Pennsylvania.

“To women and pregnant people in surrounding states and across the country where this isn’t the case, you are safe here in the commonwealth.”

Since taking office, Wolf has helped to support abortion access by vetoing three different anti-abortion bills passed by Pennsylvania’s General Assembly and vowed to veto the rest.

“Rips away a constitutional right…’

U.S. Sen. Bob Casey, D-Scranton, said the decision upends almost a half century of legal precedent and “rips away a constitutional right that generations of women have known their entire lives.”

“This dangerous ruling won’t end abortions in this country, but it will put women’s lives at risk,” Casey said.

“And make no mistake — this is not the end goal, it’s just the beginning. Republicans in Congress want to pass federal legislation to completely ban abortion. Our daughters and granddaughters should not grow up with fewer rights than their mothers,” he added.

‘Nothing more important than life’

“(Friday)’s historic decision ushers in a new era of pro-life protections for the unborn not seen in half a century,” said U.S. Rep. Fred Keller, R-Kreamer

“I commend the Supreme Court for its fortitude — amid threats of attacks and harassment from the radical left — to make the right decision and return this issue back to the states where it belongs,” Keller said.

“Most importantly, this ruling invalidates Roe v. Wade which was wrongly decided nearly 50 years ago,” he said. “Nothing is more important than life. Our Creator has a plan for every single one of us, and I will continue to fight in Congress against the left’s attempts to pass extreme legislation that allows for late-term abortions and taxpayer funded procedures.”

‘Abortion rights returns to the states’

The decision to overturn the “tragic 1973 ruling known as Roe v. Wade represents a victory for women and children throughout the country,” said Maria Gallagher, legislative director of the Pennsylvania Pro-Life Federation, the Keystone State affiliate of National Right to Life.

“Roe v. Wade is a deeply flawed decision which rightly has now been tossed into the ash bin of history,” Gallagher said. “More than 63 million preborn children have lost their lives to this abominable decision.”

In addition, countless mothers have been left to grieve babies lost to abortion, Gallagher said.

“With (Friday)’s landmark ruling, the issue of abortion policy rightfully returns to the states, where the public, through their duly elected representatives, can pursue policies that protect preborn children and their mothers from harm,” she said.

“We commend the High Court for recognizing the truth that a so-called ‘right’ to abortion appears nowhere in the U.S. Constitution,” Gallagher said. “This is a day of victory for the most vulnerable among us.”

Statistics from the PA Department of Health show that more than 32,000 abortions occurred in the Commonwealth in 2020, the latest year for which statistics are available.

“Imagine how many kindergarten classes of children have been lost to abortion in Pa. It’s mind-boggling,” Gallagher said.

Pennsylvania’s state-assisted Pregnancy and Parenting Support Program offers alternatives to women in their time of need.

“No pregnant woman in Pennsylvania should feel as if she is alone. Pregnancy help centers stand ready to offer no-cost assistance and the emotional support every pregnant woman deserves,” Gallagher added.

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