Rick Santorum Continues Assault on Abortion and Ultrasounds in Pennsylvania

Editor's Note: With 41 days left until the presidential election, PolicyMic's Audrey Farber will be posting a daily update on the state of abortion rights in the U.S., covering legislative challenges to Roe v. Wade in all 50 states. So far, we've gotten updates on New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, VermontMassachusetts, Rhode IslandMaine and New Hampshire. Check back in every day to keep track!

Remember Rick “lemons-into-lemonade” Santorum? Yeah, he tried to run for president that one time. While he might have faded from the national spotlight, he and others are still fighting about women's rights in Pennsylvania and Delaware.

The Mid-Atlantic

Pennsylvania

Because Pennsylvania would be too blue if they didn’t have another far right pro-life Republican to shock us all, the Pennsylvania GOP found Tom Smith, who is challenging incumbent Democrat Bob Casey. When asked “how he would argue to keep the baby if a daughter or granddaughter were to become pregnant as a result of rape, Smith said that his daughter went through 'something similar' to rape: 'Having a baby out of wedlock.'”

(Remember that, Pennsylvania, when you’re voting in November.)

When a female Republican State Legislator Kathy Rapp in Pennsylvania penned the 22-page “Women’s Right to Know Act” early in 2012, the backlash was the shot heard ‘round the eastern seaboard. The act included requirements for transvaginal ultrasounds and clauses “strongly encouraging women to view and listen to the ultrasounds, forcing technicians to give the women personalized copies of the results and mandating how long before any abortion the ultrasound much be preformed [sic].”

Organizations from the ACLU to the Pennsylvania Medical Society criticized the bill. At a rally in Harrisburg, Democratic State Representative Babette Josephs reportedly questioned "What are they? Women, or are they men with breasts?" Josephs also questioned “if the Republicans believe women can make their own health care choices.”

Probably not. A March 2012 Quinnipiac University poll reported voters oppose transvaginal ultrasounds 64 - 23, with men more opposed than women. Voters also oppose (by 48 - 42) the legislation requiring “a woman seeking an abortion to undergo an ultrasound at least 24 hours before the procedure.”

A bill introduced in May would have stripped Planned Parenthood clinics in the state of much of the organization's funding, most of which is used for cancer screening. Another bill, which took partial effect in June, implements strict, hospital-like architectural and staffing standards for abortion clinics.

At the time when the bill went into effect, only 14 of the state’s 22 clinics were permitted to continue operating — this in a state where only 10 out of 67 counties even have a clinic, and nine of these counties are within 100 miles of Philadelphia. The tenth is Allegheny County, home to Pittsburgh. [This link contains a map of where the counties are.]

In a state where abortion laws are already relatively restrictive — requiring parental consent for minors, discouraging counseling, a 24-hour waiting period, and a lack of accessible public funding — further deterrents seem unnecessary.

But Pennsylvania’s Republicans are determined to beat this dead horse, keeping the state just this side of violating Roe v Wade.

Delaware

Though Delaware voters fell victim to a Tea Party takeover in 2010, when moderate Republican Michael Castle lost the Republican primary for Senate to former abstinence counselor (and avowed nemesis of the Affordable Care Act) Christine O’Donnell, they have stayed strong on their moderate-to-liberal ideologies. The state is believed to be firmly in the Democrats' pocket this November.

But Delaware, beware. O’Donnell might be back in 2014, reminding us all again that “You're either very good or evil.

Regardless, she has little chance of winning. All of Delaware’s national representatives are Democrats; the State House is 63-37 Democratic, the State Senate 67-33, and Governor Jack Markell is a Democrat.

Nestled snugly between Oregon and California on its self-reported conservativeness (or lack thereof), Delaware used to be solidly Republican in the '80s, going for Reagan and the elder George Bush. But according to a New York Times analysis: “In the 1990s — as the Republican brand became more defined by cultural issues like abortion and, more recently, same-sex marriage — Republican support began to erode in Delaware, where the middle of the road tends to be preferred.”

Delaware is refreshingly controversy-free. The only recent abortion-related legislation relates to state inspections of medical facilities, a reaction to the Kermit Gosnell debacle in West Philadelphia. Though applicable to clinics, the bill doesn’t even contain the word abortion in its text.

Existing legislation is indeed “middle of the road”: parental notification, but not consent, is required and public funding is restricted to rape and incest. Though the state has fewer than ten providers, even if you’re in rural conservative Sussex County in southern Delaware, you’re not traveling more than 100 miles to an in-state clinic.