Delaware House approves bill protecting abortion rights
DOVER, Del. (AP) — The state House on Tuesday gave final legislative approval to a bill ensuring that abortion remains legal in Delaware if Roe v. Wade is ever overturned.
The measure, which cleared the Senate by one vote last month, passed the House 22-to-16.
A spokesman for Democratic Gov. John Carney said Carney will sign the measure, for which Planned Parenthood lobbied.
Delaware’s current law, which has remained on the books despite being superseded for decades by federal law, allows abortions only if the mother’s health is at risk, if there is a substantial risk the child would be born with serious disabilities, or if pregnancy results from rape or incest.
The law also prohibits abortions beyond 20 weeks of pregnancy and requires parental consent for girls under 18. It requires a woman to provide written consent and wait 24 hours after receiving a full explanation of the abortion procedure and effects, the facts of fetal development, and an explanation of reasonable alternatives.
The legislation approved Tuesday eliminates those provisions and allows abortion without restriction before a fetus reaches viability. It defines viability as the point in a pregnancy when, in a doctor’s “good faith medical judgment,” there is a reasonable likelihood that the fetus can survive without “extraordinary medical measures.”
The bill also allows abortion after viability if a doctor determines in good faith that it is necessary to protect the woman’s life or health, or that the baby is not likely to survive without extraordinary medical measures. That provision led critics to say the bill opens the way to late-term abortions.
In introducing an unsuccessful amendment to prohibit abortion after 20 weeks, Rep. Timothy Dukes, R-Laurel, described a late-term abortion procedure known as dilation and evacuation, in which a fetus is dismembered and removed from the womb.
“The methodology of the actual medical procedure is not germane to the bill,” interjected Rep. Sean Lynn, a Dover Democrat.
“Yes it is!” some abortion opponents cried from the gallery, drawing a loud gavel and sharp rebuke from House Speaker Pete Schwartzkopf, who threatened to clear the chamber.
Opponents, who held a rally Tuesday that drew more than 100 people, have argued that abortion providers who profit from the procedure should not be determining when a fetus is viable.
Tuesday’s vote came as similar bills in other Democratic-leaning states to codify abortion rights have run into legislative hurdles.
A bill introduced in January in Connecticut, which already has a “legislative declaration” protecting a woman’s right to choose abortion, did not get out of committee. A measure in New Mexico to decriminalize abortion by statute also failed to get a floor vote, despite support from the Democratic House speaker.
In Rhode Island, a bill seeking to codify abortion rights was held for further study on a Senate committee hearing last week. A companion bill in the House also was held for further study after several Democratic co-sponsors dropped out.
New York lawmakers also have introduced a measure that would protect abortion access in the event federal restrictions arise. The bill would explicitly allow for constitutionally protected care late in pregnancy when a woman’s life or health is at risk, a condition not currently in state law, which was passed before Roe v Wade. The bill cleared the Democratic-led Assembly but has yet to be considered in the Republican-led Senate.
Meanwhile, Illinois Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner has threatened to veto legislation that strikes language in current Illinois statute indicating the state’s intent to criminalize abortion except to preserve the life of the mother if Roe v. Wade is overturned. The bill also would expand abortion coverage to state workers and Medicaid recipients.