DOVER, Del. — A bill to ensure abortion remains legal in Delaware if the U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Roe v. Wade is ever overturned has been cleared by a House committee for a vote by the full chamber.
The bill, which narrowly cleared the Senate last week, was released Wednesday by the Democrat-controlled Health and Human Development Committee.
The legislation, for which Planned Parenthood is lobbying, revises Delaware’s current abortion law, which remains on the books despite being superseded by federal law.
“It’s been unconstitutional since 1973…. It should have been changed a long time ago,” said chief House sponsor Rep. Debra Heffernan, D-Wilmington.
The current 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 and permanent deformities or disabilities, or if pregnancy results from rape or incest. The law prohibits abortions beyond 20 weeks of pregnancy and requires parental consent for girls under 18. It also 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 removes any restrictions on abortion before a fetus reaches viability. It prohibits abortion after viability unless a doctor determines in “good faith,” that an abortion is necessary to protect the woman’s life or health, or that there is not a reasonable likelihood of the fetus’s sustained survival outside the uterus without extraordinary medical measures.
Opponents argued that abortionists who profit from the procedure should not be determining when a fetus is viable.
“Abortion is the cash cow of Planned Parenthood,” said Britanie Walls, 20, who said the only counseling a friend received when she went to Planned Parenthood for an abortion was that she was making the right choice.
Ruth Lytle-Barnaby, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood of Delaware, said the one thing a woman deciding whether to get an abortion doesn’t need is “interference by the state.”
But Nicole Theis, executive director of the Delaware Family Policy Council, said the legislation does far more than affirm the right to an abortion under Roe v. Wade. She also said it ignores more than 40 years of court rulings since then. Other opponents noted that there have been significant advances in neonatology since then.
Lawmakers in other states also are considering abortion-related legislation.
A bill pending in Rhode Island seeks to codify abortion rights, but may not win passage this year. Some Democratic sponsors of the measure removed their names after anti-abortion activists called it extreme.
In 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 ever overturned. The bill also would expand abortion coverage to state workers and Medicaid recipients.
Meanwhile, the Alabama legislature has approved a proposed constitutional amendment asserting that Alabama is a “right to life” state, and that nothing in it constitution secures or protects a right to abortion or requires the funding of an abortion. The proposal will go before voters in 2018.