After a Night of Heated Debates, Allentown City Council Committee Forwards 4 Abortion-Related Ordinances to Next Meeting | State
ALLENTOWN, Pennsylvania – After a three-hour meeting of intense debate on Wednesday evening, an Allentown City Council special committee agreed to forward four proposed abortion rights ordinances to the next full council meeting, currently scheduled for July 7. september.
The decision was not unanimous among the three-member special committee consisting of Joshua Siegel, the sponsor of the bills; Cynthia Mota, Board Chair; and Daryl L. Hendricks.
Hendricks voted “no” on all four proposed orders.
If approved by the city council, the ordinances:
Create 15-foot buffer zones in hospitals, doctor’s offices or clinics responsible for assisting patients and others entering or leaving these facilities. This would prevent protests against abortion or reproductive counseling from taking place on sidewalks right outside facilities offering abortions. (Law 60)
Make it illegal for any limited-service pregnancy center to misrepresent any pregnancy-related service. The regulation would prevent a pregnancy center from trying to lure women seeking abortions to its facility under the false pretense that abortion counseling is offered as a service. (Law 61)
Ask all city officials and law enforcement not to prioritize enforcement of any abortion-related crime if abortion becomes illegal nationwide or in Pennsylvania. (Law 62)
Protect any reproductive health care service provider from investigation or prosecution out of state for providing legal abortion care. The provision would prohibit any city official, officer or employee from providing information or expending or using city resources in any investigation to impose criminal charges against any abortion service provider. (Law 63)
This is the second time the council has broached the topic of abortion in response to the United States Supreme Court’s June decision that overturned its 1973 Roe v. Wade.
On July 20, council voted 5-2 to recommend that the City of Allentown cover travel costs related to abortion access for all city employees, should the need arise. because of potential future restrictions on abortion in the state.
During this meeting, a resident asked why travel expenses could not be granted to all residents of the city wishing to have an abortion. Siegel then announced that he was drafting legislation to help protect abortion in the city of Allentown.
The special committee meeting on Wednesday lasted three hours to allow for public comment from more than 75 people attending the meeting.
Bill 60: Buffer Zones
Bill 60, the Buffer Zone Ordinance, has generated much debate. Siegel said there is clear, documented evidence from local Planned Parenthood that there is a pattern of abuse, harassment and bullying.
“This in no way stops anyone from speaking their mind, holding signs and saying what they need to say, but it does ensure that people who seek treatment, healthcare and access to their reproductive rights do so without fear of physical intimidation, verbal altercation and bullying,” Siegel said.
“Some of my colleagues have expressed concerns that this is outside the parameters of what a municipality can do,” he continued. “I’m asking you to look at the evidence and realize that it’s not something that’s not out of balance with what a city can do. It’s completely reasonable and justifiable and “, in fact, the least we can do to stand up for women’s reproductive rights. It’s pro-public safety, and it’s pro-women.”
Anne Kiernan said she represented the group St. Joseph the Worker Defenders of Life in Orefield.
“No police reports have been filed against individuals who peacefully offer information to members of the public near abortion centers,” Kiernan said. “These people, called sidewalk counselors, are simply there to offer help to women who don’t want an abortion. Sidewalk counselors help women who make the choice to save their babies.”
“Planned Parenthood has a financial interest in preventing women from receiving information about alternatives and other choices,” Kiernan added. “This ordinance, and others like it, clearly support Planned Parenthood at the expense of women who would have chosen life for their babies if only they had interacted with the site’s sidewalk counselor before entering Planned Parenthood. Planned Parenthood offers no hope to women, only offers death to unborn babies.
Several other women from pro-life organizations in the Lehigh Valley gave similar testimony.
Siegel criticized the large number of women who opposed the buffer zone, calling them misinformed.
“You made your spirit (voice) heard and I respect that,” he said. “I think you’re wrong. And to call that divisive is foolish. It’s no more divisive than denying the flat Earth theory.”
“The reality is, it’s not a moral decision; it’s a healthcare decision,” Seigel continued. “The vast majority of the population supports women’s access to reproductive rights. The vast majority of the population supports buffer zones. The vast majority of the population thinks it’s health care.”
Bill 61: Limited Service Advertising
The proposed ordinance on the regulation of advertising by pregnancy centers – Bill 61 – drew criticism from Jon Merwarth, executive director of Bright Hope Pregnancy Support Centers.
“How can you in good conscience sue a pregnancy center for deception and think it’s okay for a place that ends parenthood to be called Planned Parenthood?” Merwart asked.
“Planned Parenthood doesn’t have a plan for parenthood,” he said. “They don’t offer early childhood development education, no childbirth classes, no pregnancy support, no parenting support. That’s your deception.”
“You call us limited because we don’t provide abortions or birth control,” Merwarth continued. “Why don’t you call Planned Parenthood limited for not offering the things I just mentioned?”
City resident Margaretha Haeussler said she supported the bill.
“I really struggle, given the stated position of pregnancy crisis centers, that they’re really going to give objective advice when they have a stated position that they’re anti-choice,” Haeussler said.
“It’s not about saying, ‘We’re shutting you down or stopping your services,'” she added. “This means we don’t want you to be able to give misleading or misleading information to women as they research and try to make it difficult to choose.”
Dr John Roizin, of Easton, identified himself as an abortion care provider.
“I’ve had countless patients who have gone to these centers and been told after their ultrasounds that they may be more advanced than they really are,” Roizin said. “It was just false information they were fed.”
“And worse than that, I’ve had cases where patients were told we couldn’t see anything on the ultrasound and to come back next week and told to come back again and again and again,” said Roizin said, “and by then they were more advanced in their pregnancy.”
Siegel added that the centers increase and inflate the risks of abortion.
“Abortion is one of the safest procedures in the medical community,” Siegel said. “It’s no more dangerous than having a colonoscopy, and I don’t see us banning that. The way we present information has consequences when you say something like abortion has emotional and psychological complications. .”
“If you tell the truth, you have nothing to fear,” he said. “But I think, frankly, if you’re worried, maybe there’s a reason why you’re worried about this extensive review.”
Bills 62, 63: Abortion-Related Crimes, Out-of-State Investigations
The last two orders, Bills 62 and 63, also drew criticism from pro-life groups and individuals, suggesting that Allentown would place itself above the law.
Supporters said it would be no different than prioritizing marijuana possession prosecutions.
The full council could potentially vote on the ordinances at its next full meeting on September 7, unless there is an additional meeting before then. Currently, the ordinances look likely to pass, as it looks like only Hendricks and Ed Zucal will oppose them.