Senate Passes Abortion Control Act Reform Legislation

(HARRISBURG) – Today the State Senate passed legislation updating the Abortion Control Act to prevent abortions from being performed after 20 weeks and further prohibit dismemberment abortions, according to Senator Joe Scarnati (R-25).

Scarnati, a co-sponsor of the legislation, explained that Senate Bill 3 reduces the maximum gestational age for legal abortions from 24 to 20 weeks. As in current law, this limitation would not apply in situations where an abortion is necessary to prevent the death or impairment of a major bodily function of a woman. In addition, this legislation would prohibit the practice of tearing a fetus apart by its limbs, also called dismemberment abortion.

“It is greatly important that we work to protect the most vulnerable in our society, including the innocent unborn,” Scarnati said.  “Due to the significant advances in medicine, it is imperative that we make these needed changes.  Research indicates that an unborn child at 20 weeks or less of gestational development likely has a zero percent chance of survival. However, due to significant scientific advances in medicine, a baby’s viability increases 40 to 70 percent at 24 weeks.”

Scarnati noted that according to the Journal of the American Medical Association, overall survival rates for premature babies between 22 and 24 weeks increased to 79 percent in 2012, up from 70 percent in 1993. Additionally, about 1/3 of premature babies, born at 23 weeks, will survive.

By 20 weeks, babies have developed all of the physical structures necessary to experience pain, and studies have shown that they react to painful stimuli. During fetal surgery, an unborn baby who is administered anesthesia has a decrease in stress hormones compared to when painful stimuli is applied without anesthesia.

In light of medical advancements, over the past several years, 15 states have now begun to reduce the maximum gestational age for legal abortions from 24 to 20 weeks. These states include Alabama, Arkansas, Indiana, Kansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Nebraska, North Carolina, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Texas, West Virginia, and Wisconsin. Additionally, Governor John Kasich of Ohio just recently signed a bill that would ban abortions after 20 weeks in that state.

Senate Bill 3 will now be sent to the House of Representatives for consideration. 

CONTACT: Kate Eckhart   keckhart@pasen.gov (717) 787-7084