By Joelle Shea

The start of the 2011-2012 Pennsylvania legislative session saw movement on several pieces of pro-life legislation. Given the fact that Pennsylvania boasts a pro-life governor and a pro-life majority in the House and the Senate, the Pennsylvania Catholic Conference (PCC) is hopeful that these bills will become law as the session progresses.

There is vocal opposition to all pro-life legislation, so be sure to visit this summer to send a message to your legislators in support of the dignity of every human life. Here is an update as of the legislature’s summer recess: {{more}}

* Should abortion clinics be held to the same standards as other surgical facilities?

In Pennsylvania, freestanding abortion clinics are not subject to the same health standards as other ambulatory surgical facilities. Simply put, the current law favors the abortion industry. Both chambers of the legislature have been working to address this discrepancy, which manifested itself in the stark reality of the “house of horrors” run by Dr. Kermit Gosnell in Philadelphia. In May, the House passed House Bill 574, and in June the Senate passed Senate Bill 732.

In late June, the House Health Committee amended and passed Senate Bill 732 with essentially the same language as House Bill 574. After the summer recess, PCC expects the amended Senate Bill 732 will go to the House floor for a vote, and then be sent to the Senate for concurrence.

* Should abortions be covered in the health care exchange set up by federal health care reform?

Senate Bill 3 would clearly prohibit abortion coverage in the taxpayer-supported insurance plans to be created in Pennsylvania’s health insurance exchange when the state implements the federal Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA). SB 3 passed the state Senate on June 7 with a vote of 37-12. In late June, SB 3 cleared the first hurdle in the House of Representatives with the 22-2 vote in the House Insurance Committee. The PCC expects this bill will also be taken up after the summer recess.

* Does the budget reflect a pro-life agenda?

In the midst of severe funding cuts for several programs in the Department of Public Welfare budget, the PCC is pleased that the state’s alternatives to abortion program, Real Alternatives, received a 4 percent increase. This will enable more women to receive valuable resources throughout their pregnancy.

What should we expect in the fall?
In addition to the legislation mentioned above, the PCC is also supporting the Ultrasound Access Bill, which requires that a woman be given the option to see her ultrasound and see/hear her unborn child’s heartbeat. The PCC expects this bill to be introduced in the fall in the House of Representatives. Nearly 100 representatives have already signed on as co-sponsors. The lists of state legislators who voted in favor of House Bill 574, Senate Bill 732 and Senate Bill 3 are posted on PCC’s website,

It is critical that your senator and representative hear from you on these issues. This summer, please consider calling, visiting or emailing your legislators to voice your support for human life from conception to natural death. Also, become a member of our advocacy network at to receive the most up-to-date information about legislation concerning Catholics.

Joelle Shea is director of outreach for the Pennsylvania Catholic Conference.