If the U.S. Supreme Court overturns the landmark Roe v. Wade ruling that legalized abortion 49 years ago, state lawmakers will be in a position to outlaw the procedure or dramatically restrict access to it.
That means Bryan Cutler, Republican speaker of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives who hails from Lancaster County, will play a major role in guiding the Legislature’s next steps.
In two recent interviews conducted before the Supreme Court draft ruling was released, Cutler gave varying answers when asked what would happen if Roe is dismantled.
Asked if he would support a ban on abortion after the sixth week of pregnancy, similar to the ban enacted in Texas last year, he declined to endorse a specific policy.
“No, I've always been pro-life, and what I said I would support was the right of the state to regulate abortion,” he said in an interview with LNP|LancasterOnline last week.
Cutler, who lives in Peach Bottom and represents the southern half of Lancaster County, added, “Our current laws allow abortions up to 24 weeks. Babies are viable long before that, sometimes as early as 21 weeks.”
Enacting a 21-week cutoff would limit the total number of abortions, he said, and “with the right governor,” he said it’s a step the Legislature “could be successful on.”
Asked to clarify if he meant that any legislation he supports would be tied to a viability standard, Cutler said no.
“I personally believe that life begins at conception,” he said. “That's always been where I'm at. That is my own personal belief. And I think science supports and an infant has unique DNA within the first day. I think that's very important in terms of what the court will either say or not say, remains to be seen. I will do everything I can to protect life, just like I always have.”
In an earlier interview with the Lancaster Patriot, a conservative news outlet, Cutler was asked if he would support legislation that outlaws all abortions and not just seeks to regulate it or limit it, Cutler said yes.
“If we get the opportunity to pass such legislation, I do think it would pass and I would personally support it,” he said. “What we need is a different governor.”
LNP|LancasterOnline reached out to Cutler to clarify his position given the leaked draft of the Supreme Court brief overturning Roe, first reported by Politico.
"I personally believe life begins at conception, and that every effort should be made to protect and promote the right to life for all people," Cutler said. "We are all reacting to the reports of the leaked draft opinion from the U.S. Supreme Court, and it’s important to recognize no final ruling from the court has been released. My record on the issue speaks for itself, I have consistently voted to protect life, and will continue to vote in the future to protect and promote life and support policies that promote a Commonwealth that respects the right to life for everyone.”
Both current Democratic Governor Tom Wolf and Josh Shapiro, currently the state's Attorney General and the presumptive Democratic nominee, have said they would veto new abortion legislation.
State Sen. Doug Mastriano, one of the leading Republican candidates in the Governor's race, has said he would be in favor of new legislation restricting abortions.
Here is what Pennsylvania's gubernatorial candidates have said:
Abortion is and will remain legal in Pennsylvania. 3 things to keep in mind: 1️⃣ An official ruling has not yet been made 2️⃣ Once #SCOTUS does rule, it’s up to states to pass legislation to change abortion laws 3️⃣ I’ll veto any anti-choice legislation that lands on my desk https://t.co/kbBGadiMMS— Governor Tom Wolf (@GovernorTomWolf) May 3, 2022
Abortion is legal in Pennsylvania under state law. It will remain legal, no matter what SCOTUS rules.The only way women lose their rights in PA is if our Republican Legislature passes an abortion ban and a Governor signs it.I'm going to fight like hell, and veto that bill.— Josh Shapiro (@JoshShapiroPA) May 3, 2022
If this is true, it would be an enormous, life-saving victory for unborn children. https://t.co/oJB4mxfOrb— Lou Barletta – Text LOU to 81230 (@RepLouBarletta) May 3, 2022
If true, this is of course the correct decision, both constitutionally and morally. But this leak is an outrageous attack on the Court.https://t.co/7Shyoe0NCL— Bill McSwain (@McSwainPA) May 3, 2022
My statement in this morning's USA TODAY: “With the decision returning the issue of abortion to the elected representatives of the people it is more important than ever to defeat the unabashedly pro-abortion @JoshShapiroPA. https://t.co/UrUYn2YaRK— Dave White for Governor (@davewhiteforgov) May 3, 2022