Lawmakers have introduced legislation that will bring Delaware law in line with U.S. Supreme Court precedent.
Senate Bill 5, introduced Thursday, will remove unconstitutional language in the Delaware code that has remained in statute since 1973, when the U.S. Supreme Court overturned state-level bans on abortion.
“Women have a constitutionally protected right to choose, and Delaware law should reflect that. As our legislation states, ‘this act modernizes Delaware’s law on abortion to be consistent with the scope of the right protected by the U.S. Constitution and the practice in Delaware for the past 43 years,’” said Sen. Bryan Townsend, D-Newark, the lead sponsor of the legislation. “What the bill does not do is just as significant. The bill makes no change to the regulation.”
Sponsors acknowledge the urgency of passing this legislation, considering a shift in the U.S. Supreme Court under President Trump that could threaten a woman’s right to choose.
“We need to make sure Delaware’s laws are reflective of Delaware’s longstanding practice on this issue,” said Senate Majority Leader Margaret Rose Henry, D-Wilmington South. “We should not let our failure to update our own code put at risk a woman’s right to choose in the future. Our laws must ensure abortions are safe and legal for women in Delaware.”
“All of us recognize that these decisions can be deeply personal ones, but we must affirm a woman’s right to make that choice, in consultation with her doctor, and without government interference,” added Townsend, who chairs the Senate Health Committee.
“Unfortunately, we are one U.S. Supreme Court justice away from Roe v. Wade being in peril,” said Ruth Lytle-Barnaby of She Decides Delaware, an initiative committed to preserving women’s reproductive rights. “Many people forget about what things were like before that landmark decision. The question is not whether or not Delaware should still allow abortions, the question is whether Delaware should take an important step to ensure that regardless of what might happen nationally, woman in Delaware will have access to safe and legal abortions performed by licensed doctors.”
“Health care choices are distinctly personal,” said Rep. Debra Heffernan, D-Bellefonte, a lead sponsor in the House of Representatives. “We should not allow the government to interfere with a woman’s right to make decisions regarding her wellbeing and body.”
“In recent years, we have passed several laws addressing issues affecting women throughout Delaware. Few issues are more personal than a woman’s personal right to make health care decisions regarding her own body,” said House Majority Leader Valerie Longhurst, D-Delaware City, who is a co-prime sponsor of the bill. “We want to protect these rights for women here in Delaware. This bill will ensure that a woman’s right to make these healthcare decisions are not interrupted or co-opted by government.”