Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Legislation Would Re-classify Abortion Clinics

A bill changing the way Pennsylvania’s 22 abortion clinics are regulated will likely see a House vote this week.

The legislation is a response to the murder charges filed against Philadelphia abortion provider Kermit Gosnell, who allegedly killed women and viable infants during procedures carried out in squalid conditions. It had been years since the last inspection from state officials, at the time of the 2010 raid on Gosnell’s facility.

Republican Matt Baker’s bill would re-classify abortion clinics as ambulatory surgical facilities. “Those that are performing surgical procedures,” Baker explained. “There are 112 ambulatory surgical centers currently licensed in Pennsylvania under the health care facilities act. And regrettably, the abortion clinics are not.” He argued abortion providers are providing complicated procedures with, “some… various levels of anesthesia involved. Some could lead to substantial complications, depending on the abortion. And it could jeopardize the health and welfare of women.”

The change would mean tougher guidelines and more inspections for clinic, though new policies Governor Corbett put in place after Gosnell’s arrest already require annual inspections of clinics, and closer scrutiny than state regulators previously provided.

Opponents of the measure, including Pennsylvania’s American Civil Liberties Union, say it would lead to “unreasonable” new regulations, and hundreds of thousands of dollars in changes for clinics. “Abortion clinics already follow a long list of statutes and regulations that monitor their activity, and put certain requirements on those clinics. So this bill, House Bill 574, alters the legal playing field for abortion clinics,” Hoover argued. “The Gosnell house of horrors was a failure of government, not a failure of the law. The state government made a choice under various administrations to not do the inspections rigorously, and as a result, a Gosnell was able to exist.”

Baker argued he’s simply following the guidelines of the Philadelphia grand jury that investigated Gosnell, though last week, Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams said the bill “goes beyond the scope” of the jurors’ report. In a letter to lawmakers, he wrote, “The intent of the grand jury's recommendation was to assume that women who seek the services of an abortion provider are afforded the same protections as those who go to other medical providers.”

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