Bucks County Government Signs Onto Amicus Brief In Abortion Court Fight

The filing signed onto by Bucks County said there is an “established track record of safety for mifepristone” and it should stay on the market.

The Bucks County seal outside the Justice Center. File photo.

Bucks County was one of a handful of county governments and roughly two dozen city governments to sign onto a court filing to protect access to abortion pill mifepristone.

The nonpartisan Public Rights Project filed the amicus brief last month on behalf of the city and county governments from across the country.

Anti-abortion advocates and pro-choice advocates are locked in a major fight over the pill. The pill being banned or access being drastically limited could impact nearly all medication abortions in the country.

A pair of conflicting lower federal court rulings put access to the medication in limbo, but a U.S. Supreme Court emergency order in April issued a stay to keep mifepristone available for now.

The filing signed onto by Bucks County said there is an “established track record of safety for mifepristone” and it should stay on the market.

The court case is just another battle in the fight over abortion, which kicked into high gear after Roe v. Wade was overturned and many states implemented stronger bans on abortion.

A county spokesperson said the Bucks County Law Department signed onto the amicus brief on behalf of the county after receiving support from Bucks County Commissioners Bob Harvie and Diane Ellis-Marseglia, the three-person board’s two Democrats.

The Bucks County Commissioners at a past meeting.

Harvie had previously stated the county would “guarantee reproductive health care to its employees as long as he held the gavel,” according to spokesperson James O’Malley.

“I am proud to stand up for reproductive rights,” Harvie, the commissioners chairperson, said in a statement. “Nationally, we are facing increasingly widespread legal maneuvering and legislation meant to strip away the rights of women to make decisions about their own health care. I will continue to ensure this administration remains vigilant in support of women’s rights in the aftermath of Roe vs. Wade being overturned.” 

“Protecting women’s rights and safety is most certainly an obligation of county commissioners. You cannot pick and choose when it comes to safety and healthcare. We signed onto an amicus brief, at no cost to taxpayers, to fulfill our responsibility to protect women and respond to the clear majority of Bucks County citizens! I have not, and will never, be afraid to step up and protect women. Sitting on our hands and standing idly by on the sidelines is not my style,” Ellis-Marseglia said.

Commissioner Gene DiGirolamo, a Republican, didn’t authorize the law department to sign onto the brief, while his two Democratic peers gave authorization.

Abortion activists at an event in Philadelphia in May 2022.
Credit: PA Internet News Service

The issue comes during an election year for the commissioners. Republicans are trying to retake control of the commissioners after losing in 2019.

Abortion was a big issue in the 2022 mid-terms and is expected to be pivotal in the 2023 election.

DiGirolamo and Bucks County Controller Pamula Van Blunk issued a joint statement:

“The Bucks County Commissioners have no authority to make these kinds of decisions, and this is purely political grandstanding. It is therefore telling that Bucks County is the only county in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, and one of just six of over 3,000 counties in the United States, to sign this brief. Delaware, Chester, and Montgomery County’s Commissioners, all Democrat-majority boards, did not do so. We believe that signing on to this brief was inappropriate, not because of the content or objective, but because it is simply not the County’s role to do so.”

Pamela Van Blunk and Andy Warren.

Andy Warren, a Republican former commissioner running in the primary, said he thinks the county should stay in its lane. He noted he wouldn’t approve of the county signing onto legal filings unless he spoke with constituents about the issue to gauge their views.

When asked by this news organization, the county law department noted Bucks County had joined other governments in briefs related to voting, ensuring accurate census counts, and attacks on multiculturalism and diversity training in the past.  

About the author

Tom Sofield

Tom Sofield has covered news in Bucks County for 12 years for both newspaper and online publications. Tom’s reporting has appeared locally, nationally, and internationally across several mediums. He is proud to report on news in the county where he lives and to have created a reliable publication that the community deserves.

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