HARRISBURG - A busy week of session at the state capitol ended today after committees in both the Pennsylvania Senate and the state House of Representatives addressed legislation affecting the operation of abortion clinics in the commonwealth.
Today the Senate Public Health and Welfare Committee heard testimony on bills proposed in the aftermath of the indictment of Dr. Kermit Gosnell in Philadelphia. The Senate hearing came a day after the House Health Committee passed a far-reaching bill, House Bill 574, that will have significant negative impact on the ability of women to access legal, safe abortion care.
The American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania responded to the week’s activities by noting the vast differences between the approaches taken by the House and Senate.
“Everyone agrees that patient safety is the endgame for this legislation,” said Andy Hoover, legislative director of the ACLU of Pennsylvania. “The Senate bills need to include protections of patient privacy that those bills currently lack, but no clinics will close if any of the Senate bills pass.
"HB 574, on the other hand, would effectively close most and maybe all of the independent abortion clinics in Pennsylvania. The requirements of this House bill will cost abortion providers hundreds of thousands of dollars in building renovations and staff increases.
"If HB 574 becomes law," Hoover added, "women will still seek abortion care, but with reputable clinics closed, the chances increase that women will seek abortions from doctors like Gosnell."
The Senate is considering four separate bills that alter the inspection process for abortion clinics. Senator Jake Corman, Senator Patricia Vance, and Senator Vincent Hughes are the primary sponsors of the Senate bills- SB 642, SB 732, SB 660, and SB 662.
HB 574, introduced by Rep. Matt Baker, would require freestanding abortion clinics to follow the same standards as ambulatory surgical facilities. Hoover noted that abortion is already heavily regulated in Pennsylvania.
"Abortion is the only medical procedure that is singled out as it is," Hoover said. "It is the only medical procedure that is found in the crimes code. Abortion providers already follow a long list of laws and regulations.
"The Gosnell crimes, if true, did not occur because the law failed. They occurred because the government failed. And now some state representatives want the providers who give appropriate, safe, legal care to pay the price."