By a vote of 3-1 The Newtown Township Board of Supervisors (BOS) at its September 28, 2022, meeting, approved a Women’s Reproductive Rights Resolution, which by my analysis (see below) is the first such resolution passed by a Bucks County Township.
Some people and publications claim that at least 14 other PA townships and boroughs have passed identical resolutions. An article in the Bucks County Beacon, for example, reports that "Approximately 14 Pennsylvania municipalities have issued resolutions with matching verbiage [emphasis added] [to the Women's Reproductive Rights Resolution recently passed by Newtown Supervisors]."
The article further states: "The Pennsylvania State Association of Township Supervisors (PSATS) provides template-like wording to its member communities to ensure that every municipality conveys the same message to legislators."
With regard to the latter claim, I contacted David M. Sanko, PSATS Executive Director, who said: "Sadly, as we have come to learn, the media sometimes makes mistakes," which I take to mean that PSATS did NOT provide any template resolution. I also could not find any such template on the PSATS site.
Which PA Municipalities Actually Passed Women’s Reproductive Rights Resolutions/Ordinances?
To find the answer to that question, I asked Newtown Township Solicitor Dave Sander to “confirm resolutions and ordinances of the kind [Newtown Twp] just passed.” His firm provided draft resolutions to several townships including Newtown. Mr. Sander provided a list of municipalities that he claimed adopted resolutions similar to Newtown’s (also see text message on right):
- Upper Darby
- West Whiteland
As of October 9, 2022, with the help of Mr. Sander, I have only been able to collaborate 4 municipalities in this list that actually have passed resolutions – not including Hatboro and Norristown – and only two of these have verbiage “matching” that of Newtown’s resolution. Upper Darby comes close – see notes below.
These are the four PA municipalities in Mr. Sander’s list that have passed resolutions supporting women’s reproductive rights (see below for others not on the list):
- West Whiteland Township (Chester County): Passed Resolution 2022-26 on August 10, 2022, Affirming Commitment to Valuing Reproductive Rights and Supporting Access to Abortion. Verbiage appears to match that of the NT resolution.
- Collegeville Borough (Montgomery County): Passed Resolution 22-08 on July 6, 2022, "confirming Collegeville Borough’s commitment to supporting women’s reproductive rights...”; Verbiage matches that of the NT resolution.
- Upper Darby Township (Delaware County): Passed Resolution No. 35-22 on August 10, 2022. Close, but no cigar! It’s verbiage matches pretty closely that of the NT resolution except the Whereas's say "Council condemns," "Council honors," etc. It does not say "Upper Darby" and thus does not give the impression that it speaks for the entire township, which has been a criticism of the NT resolution*.
- Haverford Township (Delaware County): Passed Resolution No. 2270-2022 (Women's Health Bill) on July 11, 2022, which states “The Haverford Township Board of Commissioners calls on the United States House of Representatives and the United States Senate to pass ‘Women’s Health Protection Act of 2021’ immediately.” This bill prohibits governmental restrictions on the provision of, and access to, abortion services. immediately provide abortion services when the provider determines a delay risks the patient's health. In contrast, the NT Resolution also addresses the PA Assembly, specifically “condemning any act by the Pennsylvania General Assembly or Congress of the United States to restricting access to [reproductive healthcare, including abortion].”
*I urged members of the Newtown BOS to remove “Newtown” in the Whereas’s and just say “Board of Supervisors condemns...”, etc. I was overruled.
Meanwhile, Radnor (Delaware County) and Whitpain (Montgomery County) have passed ordinances limiting the actions of their police departments with regard to abortions. Whitpain’s Ordinance No. 400, for example, states:
No police officer or other person acting under color of law on behalf of Whitpain Township or using resources or assets belonging to Whitpain Township shall conduct any investigation, make any arrest, file any criminal charges, cooperate with any other officer, agent, agency, or department, or participate in any prosecution in which a person is accused of facilitating, providing, or receiving abortion services with the consent of the pregnant person during the first twenty-four weeks of any pregnancy, or when the life or health of the pregnant person is endangered by continuation of the pregnancy.
- West Chester Borough (Chester County), on August 17, 2022, approved sending a letter of support for reproductive rights to State Representative Dianne Herrin and State Senator Carolyn Comitta (see Patch article). The letter states:
- “As a Council we stand in opposition to legislation that threatens complete reproductive health care access and support efforts to protect and expand safe, legal, and accessible care. This includes legislation being introduced by our state senator, Carolyn Comitta, that codifies the protections laid out in Roe vs. Wade into Pennsylvania law.”
The Council discussed but did NOT approve an ordinance put forward by the Mayor directing the POLICE DEPARTMENT TO PROVIDE FOR ENFORCEMENT LIMITATIONS REGARDING BANS OF CERTAIN REPRODUCTIVE HEALTH SERVICES…
- State College Borough (Centre County), on July 11, 2022, approved Resolution #1323 (“DECLARATION OF THE BOROUGH OF STATE COLLEGE TO PROTECT ACCESS TO HEALTH CARE”), which includes 18 WHEREAS’s and 5 “BE IT RESOLVED” statements, including:
- the State College Borough Council decries the Supreme Court's decision to strike down Roe v. Wade without consideration for how revoking the precedent will diminish federalism and the institution itself, or impact our residents' ability to access critical healthcare services with a resulting patchwork of laws banning or restricting abortion,
- the State College Borough Council joins the United States Conference of Mayors to call on Members of Congress to swiftly pass legislation to codify an individual's right to choose and urges governors and state legislatures to protect access to healthcare and individual freedoms in the absence of protections at the federal level in the meantime,
- the State College Borough Council pledges to allocate funding from current and future budgets to support groups that work to provide access, including transportation and sheltering services, for individuals to access abortions as currently permitted by the laws of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania;
- the State College Borough Council pledges to work with community groups to expand such access
This resolution includes several specific action items that the Council pledges to support and thus is not merely ceremonial – a criticism of Newtown’s resolution.
- Easton City (Northampton County), on July 13, 2022, approved Resolution 121-2022, “encouraging Congress to use all resources available to restore Roe vs. Wade through Federal Legislation. The resolution, which is very different than Newtown’s, states:
- That the City Council of the City of Easton hereby denounces the Supreme Court’s decision of overturning Roe v Wade.
- That the City of Easton is hereby a champion and defender of health equity and reproductive freedom, so that every resident in our community may have access to the reproductive services they need when they need them.
- That City of Easton calls upon the General Assembly of Pennsylvania, the United States Congress and U.S. Senate to use their power, not only to vote for such legislation but also, to fight to end the filibuster and use their resources to restore the Roe V. Wade through federal legislation.
- That the City of Easton reaffirm its opposition to the imposition of restrictions on reproductive choice by the governments of the Commonwealth or the United States, and stand in solidarity with women in states where abortion has become or soon will become illegal.
- The Easton City Council directs copies of this Resolution shall be sent to Governor Tom Wolf and our State representatives as a means of showing our City’s support of right to choose.
So far, Newtown Township is the ONLY Bucks County township to have passed a Women’s Reproductive Rights resolution or any statement in support of women’s rights viz-a-viz abortion.
I was surprised from reading the minutes of meetings where these resolutions and ordinances were passed that in most cases there was very little or NO public comments for or against these actions. [I note one exception: read “Allentown City Council Delays Votes on Abortion Rights Ordinances” published September 6, 2022.] In contrast, Newtown Twp supervisors were subjected to at least 6 hours of public comments that were often contentious, claiming supervisors were playing politics, wasting time, and should not be speaking for the entire township. To me, this proves that Newtown was subjected to a campaign organized by influential citizens with special political interests.
Several municipalities went much further than Newtown and called for specific actions such as ending the filibuster in Congress, pledging support for citizens seeking abortion, and limiting policing of abortion-related activities.
It is likely that other townships and boroughs have or will develop women’s reproductive rights resolutions or ordinances similar to the ones noted above. I will continue to search for them and update my database.
Posted on 06 Oct 2022, 01:20 - Category: Resolutions