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Pa. abortion access could ride on governor’s race


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Your Postmaster: Colin Deppen
June 14, 2021
Abortion bans, deadly scourge, siege teacher, water suit, high interest, Spanier jailed, and 'Elvis the emu' runs again. It's Monday, welcome to the week.
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Gov. Tom Wolf is promising to veto any bills restricting abortion access in Pennsylvania amid a flurry of Republican-led attempts to do just that. 

Spotlight PA reports the governor's affirmation comes after House Republicans last week passed a bill that would ban abortions on the basis of a prenatal Down syndrome diagnosis and another requiring health-care facilities to bury or cremate fetal remains, which critics say would add to parental trauma. Both are now headed to the state Senate.

A third bill banning abortions after a fetal heartbeat is detected, one of the most restrictive options possible, is awaiting further discussion in the House.

"Whenever an anti-choice bill comes to my desk, I will veto it," Wolf said last week at a press conference in Philadelphia.

But Wolf is leaving office in 18 months and the race to find his successor is currently a toss-up, meaning Pennsylvania’s next governor could potentially be a member of the GOP who would sign such restrictions into law.

THE CONTEXT: Wolf already vetoed a version of the Down syndrome abortion ban in 2019 and did the same with a bill banning abortion at 20 weeks, four weeks earlier than Pennsylvania's current six-month limit, in 2017.

Judiciaries also play a checks-and-balances role when it comes to abortion-related legislation, but the heavily conservative U.S. Supreme Court's looming review of a Mississippi abortion rule could have big implications for Roe v. Wadethe legal guidepost directing lower court decisions nationwide.

Without Roe v. Wade, legality would largely be determined by state lawmakers, many of whom have already made their intentions clear.

Asked about the possibility of his replacement being opposed to abortion access, Wolf said, "My hope is that Pennsylvania continues to have people in Harrisburg … who recognize that politicians have no place in the doctor’s office, making decisions for women."

Correction: In covering the state GOP's new election reform proposals in this space on Friday, I said voter ID is currently only required for first-time voters. It's required for first-time voters or anyone voting at a new polling location for the first time.
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"The city is absolutely being disingenuous, deceptive, and confusing. It always meant to evict all people sleeping on the sidewalks."

—Stephanie Sena, a Villanova University expert on poverty, who plans to sue Philadelphia over a plan to clear Kensington of homeless encampments, a plan the city says it's already backed off of 

VACCINE UPDATE: The Biden administration is buying 500 million doses of Pfizer's COVID-19 vaccine to donate to the world. CNN reports the move "will also serve to counter efforts by Russia and China to use their own state-funded vaccines to expand their global influence." For vaccine providers, use the federal government's online tool, call 1-800-232-0233, or text your ZIP code to 438829 (GETVAX).
» CONGRESSIONAL REDISTRICTING: Join Spotlight PA for a live interview and reader Q&A with Sen. David Argall at 1 p.m. June 18. RSVP for FREE »
Serenity now, serenity now. Thanks, @yatsko, for sharing this photo of Harrisburg doing the dew. Send us your hidden gems, use the hashtag #PAGems on Instagram, or tag us @spotlightpennsylvania.
OVERDOSE DEATHS: Fentanyl deaths are surging in Allegheny County, where 2020 brought a 31.5% increase in fatal overdoses involving the powerful opioid. The Post-Gazette reports the county's death rate is nearly three times higher than the national average — a decorated Air Force veteran, a grandfather, and a local tax accountant among the dead.

SIEGE SUSPECT: A substitute social studies teacher from Glenshaw stands accused of fighting with U.S. Capitol police and breaking into the building during the Jan. 6 insurrection. TribLIVE reports Robert Morss, who previously served in the military and attended Penn State, was arrested Friday morning by the FBI.

WATER FIGHT: A federal judge has tossed a lawsuit by Republican state lawmakers that sought to overturn a 10-year-old moratorium on gas drilling and hydraulic fracturing in the Delaware River basin, the AP reports. The judge said the lawmakers and four municipal plaintiffs lack standing, but the latter have a chance to refile the suit by July 1.

HOUSE HUNTERS: Chuck Vukotich bought his mother's modest Penn Hills home for $55,000 in 2016. Today, a topsy-turvy housing market has bargain-hunters bombarding him with offers, the Wall Street Journal reports, sometimes dozens of times a week. He said, "I don’t mind somebody trying to make a buck, but it's kind of a pain in the butt."

IN CUSTODY: Former Penn State president Graham Spanier has reported to jail a month early to begin serving his sentence on a child endangerment conviction related to his handling of the Jerry Sandusky child sexual abuse scandal. Spanier was being held at the Centre County Correctional Facility and will serve at least two months, via the AP.
GUN SHOW: A Pulitzer Prize-winning NPR podcast about three brothers "on a mission to reconstruct America using two tools — guns and Facebook" — begins at an anti-lockdown protest in Harrisburg, where the brothers and their "No Compromise" movement have a recurring presence. 

FLAG DAY: Today is Flag Day, commemorating the adoption of the U.S. flag on June 14, 1777. The holiday's roots trace back to the Pittsburgh-born son of a Union soldier, whose speech at a 19th-century political convention touched off a decades-long, pro-holiday push, via TribLIVE's archives.

PHILM PHANS: CNN anchor Jake Tapper's impromptu tour of Philadelphia's cinematic universe began with a simple Twitter poll asking if "Rocky," "Creed," "Blow Out," or "Trading Places" is the better Philly film. The choices ballooned from there, but "Rocky" still won, an outcome under review by Billy Penn.

RUSH JOB: A custom bicycle gifted to U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson by U.S. President Joe Biden was made by a Philly builder on the fly and on the cheap, WHYY reports. Stephen Bilenky of Bilenky Cycle Works made this one for a fraction of the price he normally does, and in a fraction of the time.

EMU PHASE: An "infamous Perry County emu" named Elvis, which spent seven months on the run before being captured in May, is on the loose again, per ABC27. Just like last time, sightings are popping up on social media. And like last time, emus remain incredibly fast, running up to 30 MPH. 
Unscramble and send your answer to scrambler@spotlightpa.org. We'll shout out winners here, and one each week will get some Spotlight PA swag.

Friday's answer: Unctuous

Congrats to our weekly winner: Irene R.

And congrats to our daily winners: Mike B., Mark O., Paul M., Michelle T., Elaine C., David I., Susan D., Bruce T., Kevin H., Kim C., Jackie S., Parker B., Mary Ellen T., Don H., Jill A., Al M., Beth T., George S., Craig E., Dennis M., Myles M., Christine M., Brandie K., David W., Barbara A., Suzanne S., Dianne K., Becky C., Gregory G., Christine M., Johnny C., Patricia R., Carol D., James B., Cris F., Joel S., Bob R., Elizabeth W., Rick D., Diane P., and Fred O.
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