A bill changing the way Pennsylvania’s abortion clinics are regulated has cleared the Senate on a 38-12 vote.
The legislation reclassifies abortion clinics as ambulatory surgical facilities. Supporters say the change will provide stricter oversight, and help prevent another clinic from turning into a “house of horrors,” like Kermit Gosnell’s Philadelphia facility. “It is time for abortion centers to play by the same rules that govern ambulatory surgical centers,” said Maria Vitale, the Pennsylvania Pro-Life Federation’s education director, in an emailed statement. “For far too long, abortion facilities have been operating in the dark. For the sake of women’s health and safety, it’s time for abortion centers to be held accountable.
But abortion rights supporters worry the reclassification will lead to hundreds of thousands of dollars in costs for clinics scrambling to adapt to new codes. Republican Pat Vance, who wrote the initial bill increasing state scrutiny of clinics, said she’s concerned many will shut down, but still voted “yes” on the measure. “My original bill will still apply, since the Mensch amendment went in, for at least the first nine weeks,” she explained. “I think it’s important, if any clinics are able to survive and stay open, that there will still be health care for poor women.”
Vance, who ended her comments by declaring, “I reluctantly rise to say that I will support my own legislation,” wasn’t the only hesitant “yes” vote. Democrat Lisa Boscola blasted the measure, saying, “We’ve had nearly 40 years of activism by women and men. The courts in this country have allowed a woman’s right to choose. And this amendment in this bill basically strikes all those years of activism – all those years have been washed away in just a couple weeks.” Boscola ended up supporting the bill, though, because post-Gosnell, she thinks abortion clinics need stricter oversight.
The Senate vote came a bit more than a month after the House approved a similar measure, making abortion regulation the latest issue this year to see redundant House and Senate action. (Both chambers have passed their own versions of Castle Doctrine legislation and bath salts bans, to name two examples.) It’s not clear which chamber will act next, or which measure will move forward.