No “fundamental right” to abortion found by majority, yet three PA Supreme Court Justices overrule long-standing precedent prohibiting taxpayer funding of elective abortions; Two Justices dissented (Mundy and Todd), showing support for that precedent.
(HARRISBURG, PA – January 29, 2024) Today, the PA Supreme Court released its opinions in Allegheny Reproductive Health Center v. PA Department of Human Services. The case was initiated five years ago by the abortion industry, seeking to mandate taxpayer funding of elective abortions. The plaintiffs also asked the court to invent new constitutional rights to eliminate existing longstanding limits on abortion in Pennsylvania.
“The good news is that the abortion industry failed to receive a majority of the court ruling to invent a right to an abortion in our state’s Constitution,” states Jeremy Samek, Senior Counsel for Pennsylvania Family Institute. “The bad news is three justices overruled the longstanding precedent – decided by seven members of the PA Supreme Court nearly forty years ago – that upheld the longstanding state law preventing taxpayer funding of elective abortions.”
Two female justices dissented and would have upheld that precedent, Justice Sallie Updyke Mundy and Justice Debra Todd.
“Two of the justices – Christine Donahue and David Wecht – agreed with the abortion industry’s request to declare a ‘fundamental right to reproductive autonomy,’ something not found in the Pennsylvania Constitution,” stated Michael Geer, President of the Pennsylvania Family Institute. “Creating such a sweeping right would have severe implications, including allowing unfettered abortion until birth. Thankfully, this did not gain support from other members of the court.”
The case is not over. It now goes back to the Commonwealth Court, where the law can still be upheld based on the substantial interest the state has in its decision to choose not to use taxpayer funds for elective abortions.
“[T]he majority overrules unanimous precedent on this politically sensitive topic which is best resolved by the political branches,” writes PA Supreme Court Justice Sallie Updyke Mundy in her dissenting opinion.
In her dissenting opinion, Justice Mundy highlights how the Majority’s decision “gives little weight to the monumental impact the abortion decision has for the unborn child, who either lives or dies depending on the mother’s choice.”
“[I]t is worth noting that in their 219-page opinion, the lead Justices do not once concede [the lives of the unborn child] have inherent value or that a choice to abort them necessarily involves their involuntary, violent destruction,” writes Justice Mundy. “Instead, they invoke euphemisms drawn from political ideology, such as “reproductive autonomy,” “procreative choice,” and “control of one’s body” – without acknowledging there is another “body” in the equation that the Legislature may validly consider, or that adoption exists as an option for a pregnant woman to avoid expanding her family if she so chooses.”