By Dr. Erica Goldblatt Hyatt
I first met Governor Tom Wolf in April of 2016, when I spoke at a press conference at the State Capitol. As a mother who made the heartbreaking decision to end a pregnancy after 20 weeks’ gestation, I was increasingly advocating against proposed legislation attempting to restrict women’s reproductive rights. In 2016, Governor Wolf, likeminded legislators, patient advocates and I publicly opposed HB1948, which specifically targeted the difficult and painful decisions women like me were forced to make on behalf of our unborn children. This bill, which later evolved into SB3, sought to criminalize abortion providers and restrict women across Pennsylvania with no exceptions for rape or incest. In my case, I would have been forced to carry a baby with a rare and deadly abnormality to term if the pregnancy continued. While we deeply loved and wanted our son Darby Joss, my husband and I knew that we could not responsibly bring a child into the world only to experience horrific suffering with no hope of recovery. As a result, ensuring that bills like HB1948/SB3 would never become law became a call that I felt compelled to answer. Thankfully, Governor Wolf was on the side of women, as he always has been. He went on the record stating that should the legislation come to his desk, he would veto it.
When I met Governor Wolf that first day, I was unable to say much more than “Thank you.” In fact, in our multiple meetings since, I have been able to say little else. I am so grateful for Governor Wolf’s commitment to protecting my rights as a woman and mother. Abortion bans rob us of our self-determination and freedom to make decisions for our own health and bodies and, in my case, the decision to protect our unborn children from excruciating pain. Governor Wolf clearly understands that reproductive choices can only be made by women who must bear their consequences alongside loved ones, religious advisors, and expertly informed physicians.
When I thanked him, Governor Wolf told me, “I have two daughters. I could never imagine taking this important choice away from them”. I breathed a sigh of relief knowing that the health of women like me would not fall into the hands of politicians they would never even meet. A few weeks later, I received a hand-written note from the Governor, thanking me for my advocacy in the press conference, which ultimately resulted in the tabling of HB1948. It meant a great deal to me that my actions mattered to the Governor, and that he took the time to express his appreciation.
Unfortunately, in 2017, SB3 made its way through the House without any opportunity for public testimony. Governor Wolf promised to veto that bill too, because enacted, it would have resulted in the most restrictive abortion ban in the country. But the bill did reach his desk, and I proudly stood beside him once again on December 18, 2017, when he made good on his word to ensure that no woman, family, or abortion provider would suffer the cruel and unusual punishment the bill proposed. As he stated repeatedly, “Pennsylvania will not play games with women’s healthcare in our Commonwealth”. With the stroke of his pen he vetoed the bill.
During a tumultuous time in the nation’s history, Governor Wolf continues to stand by his word and his commitment to social justice. He is willing to enact change, whether it is vetoing dangerous, toxic abortion legislation or ensuring that the Pennsylvania congressional districts are redrawn in order to ensure the democratic process that underpins this great country remains as fair and unbiased as possible. Governor Wolf doesn’t just talk the talk; he walks the walk. These days, it’s increasingly rare to find a politician that follows through on his promises. Pennsylvania constituents always know where Tom Wolf stands. There’s never any bait-and-switch where he’s concerned and he always follows through.
I will support Governor Wolf’s reelection and continue to speak out on his behalf because his track record already speaks volumes: under his plan for Pennsylvania, our beautiful state is growing and thriving. After all, he’s already expanded Medicaid and increased enrollment in the Children’s Health Insurance Program. He’s on top of the opioid epidemic. He’s taking care of seniors. All told, he is a governor for the people, ensuring that we the people are heard by our elected officials, making sure that they are accountable to us and not special interest groups. For these reasons and more, I believe in Governor Wolf. I can’t wait to see what he does with his second term.