A group of about 10 demonstrators gathered outside the Pottsville office of State Sen. Dave Argall and Reps. Tim Twardzik and Joe Kerwin on Saturday to protest newly introduced abortion legislation in the Pennsylvania General Assembly.
The group held some rather descriptive signs to express their feelings about the bills and the local support for them from the legislators, including State Rep. Jerry Knowles. Some read:
- Help! There are Congressmen in my (uterus).
- Keep your votes away from my vagina.
- We need to talk about the elephant in the womb!
- Regulate impotence – Your limp d*** is God’s will.
Some of the signs featured wire coat hangers to signify the dangers of abortions not done by physicians.
The demonstration was organized by the Schuylkill County Democrat Women’s League and was attended by many of the same women who’ve been at protests in front of Schuylkill County Courthouse against Commissioner George Halcovage and Sheriff candidate Doug Litwhiler.
While those protests have been rather tame, Saturday’s was … interesting, at least for a few minutes. While many people honked as they drove by, some hecklers chastised the women for their message. One man yelled, “You’re all going to Hell,” as he drove by.
And with their attention diverted on another occasion, a young kid sneaked up behind the protestors and swiped one of their signs. A few of the demonstrators were somehow able to track down the scamp that stole the sign and the boy’s mother brought it back. However, she had some choice words for the protestors, scolding them for allegedly taking photos of the suspected pilferer.
At some point, someone called someone a Karen.
The mother said her kid took the sign because he and his friends thought it was funny that one of the signs had the word ‘vagina’ on it.
“Because he’s 13,” the mother said, answering why he’d think that word was funny.
Schuylkill County Democrats Protest Against Recent Pennsylvania Abortion Legislation
Outside of the theatrics, the purpose of the protest in Pottsville on Saturday was to voice disapproval with recent abortion legislation either passed by or making its way to the floor of the State House of Representatives.
The include House Bills 904, 118, and 1500.
None ban abortion outright but one of the main organizers of Saturday’s demonstration, Lisa Nagele Hollenbach, say they make getting an abortion more difficult and more dangerous.
“These bills are dangerous for women,” she says. “Abortions have always happened and they always will happen. If women want an abortion, they will find a way to have one.”
Pennsylvania House Bill 904 – Fetal Heartbeat Bill
HB 904, more commonly referred to as the Fetal Heartbeat Bill, would make abortion illegal after the presence of a fetal heartbeat is discovered by a doctor. Locally, Knowles is a co-sponsor of this legislation. It passed the Health Committee by a 15-10 vote along partisan lines. Twardzik, a member of that committee, voted in favor.
It requires a doctor to perform a fetal heartbeat exam to determine its presence or not.
“The physician shall utilize the physician’s best clinical judgement to determine whether or not a fetal heartbeat is present,” the bill reads.
There are exceptions under HB 904 that allow an abortion even if a fetal heartbeat is discovered. Specifically, a physician would have to determine that an abortion is “necessary” to work around the Fetal Heartbeat Bill.
Hollenbach says the Fetal Heartbeat Bill makes abortion illegal after 6 weeks of pregnancy. She says that many women don’t know they’re pregnant at that point.
“Clearly, men are designing this legislation because they don’t know that simple fact,” she says. “They are extremists and they’ve gone too far.”
Here’s a look at the full text of House Bill 904:Pennsylvania House Bill 904 – The Fetal Heartbeat Bill
Pennsylvania House Bill 1500 – Down Syndrome Abortion Bill
HB 1500 would make it that someone can not seek an abortion solely because the fetus has been diagnosed with Down Syndrome.
Kerwin, Knowles, and Twardzik were co-sponsors of this bill. It passed the House on June 8 by a 120-83 margin with some bipartisan support.
“On its face, it may sound like a positive thing, but what we also know is that these legislators are not doing anything. The parents are saying ‘I don’t have the capacity to take care of this special needs child. But they’re not doing anything in terms of community programs, in resistance or help once they have a child that they’ve told you outright that they can not take care of,” Hollenbach says as a counter to the bill.
Here’s a look at the full text of House Bill 1500:Pennsylvania Down Syndrome Abortion bill
Pennsylvania House Bill 118 – Final Disposition of Fetal Remains Act or Unborn Child Dignity Bill
Prior to passage of HB 118, which prime sponsor Rep. Frank Ryan of Lebanon County titled the Unborn Child Dignity Bill, there was a heated debate on what it actually does.
Ryan released a statement and the bill was later amended to clarify that HB 118 does not require women who miscarry or suffer an ectopic pregnancy to fill out a fetal death certificate. He says it simply allows those parents to claim the child’s remains for “a proper cremation or burial at their own expense.”
He accused Democrats for advancing a narrative about the bill that simply wasn’t true. He called out Montgomery County Commissioner Val Arkoosh for spreading the lie that HB 118 would fine women who suffer a miscarriage and require them to fill out a fetal death certificate.
In a statement released on June 4, Ryan said, “It is sad that a public figure, let alone a physician, would mischaracterize my bill in this manner and mislead the public about its purpose. House Bill 118, which is similar to an Indiana law deemed constitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court, would give grieving parents a choice. It does not require them to act, and it certainly does not require action that would further traumatize them. To say that it does is deeply troubling.”
After reading the text of the bill, it actually only requires a parents of the unborn child to pay for final disposition of the fetal remains if they select a location other than one “that is usual and customary for a health care facility.”
Otherwise, it’s on the health care facility to:
- Provide for the final disposition of the unborn child;
- Cremate or inter the fetal remains;
Knowles and Kerwin are co-sponsors of this legislation. It passed the House by a 118-83 vote back on June 9 with all 3 local legislators voting in favor of it. It, too, got some bipartisan support.
Here’s a look at the full text of House Bill 118:
Pennsylvania House Bill 118 – Final Disposition of Fetal Remains Act
Protest Demands More Community Education
Hollenbach says it’s unlikely that these bills become law because Gov. Tom Wolf has promised to veto them, which he has.
In addition to being against the bills as they’re written, the argument of the protestors on Saturday is what legislators in Harrisburg are not doing.
“They’re not increasing access to birth control or education for people to be proactive about unwanted pregnancies,” Hollenbach says. “They call themselves pro-life but what they really are is anti-choice and pro-birth. Once the fetus comes out as a real person, they don’t care anymore.
“Abortion exists as an important healthcare right and choice for women. I may not choose to do that for myself but I have no right to tell another woman what’s best for her and her life situation,” she adds. “These folks aren’t doing the legislation for preventative care and they don’t have any legislation that regulates a man’s body. It’s all posturing to a base and it’s shameful.”
During our conversation Saturday, Hollenbach suggested one way to regulate men would be to advocate for reversible vasectomies.
She says, “Why don’t we require the male, who is never mentioned in any of this legislation – as if their contribution isn’t important to bringing life into the world – why not the male has to pay mandatory child support from the minute there’s a heartbeat until the child graduates from college?”