HARRISBURG- Legislation passed today by the Pennsylvania House of Representatives could lead to the closure of abortion clinics and a public health crisis across Pennsylvania, according to a statement released by the American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania in response to the vote. House Bill 574 rewrites the legal requirements for freestanding abortion clinics and was introduced in response to the indictment of Kermit Gosnell in Philadelphia.
"Abortion clinics already follow a long list of statutes and regulations," said Andy Hoover, the legislative director of the ACLU of Pennsylvania. "The supporters of this bill want those abortion providers who give safe, professional care to pay for the sins of Gosnell."
HB 574 would require abortion clinics to follow the regulations of ambulatory surgical facilities, which differ in numerous ways from the current laws and regulations that abortion clinics follow. The ACLU of Pennsylvania and its advocacy partners have determined that an individual clinic could spend hundreds of thousands of dollars in building renovations and staffing changes, if HB 574 becomes law. Such alterations would force clinics to either close or significantly increase the cost of abortion care.
"HB 574 will have the most impact on poor and rural women," Hoover said. "Women will still need abortion care. With care inaccessible and unaffordable, women of means will simply go out of state. But poor women and those who live in rural areas will not have access to care and will be more likely to turn to a disreputable doctor like Gosnell."
Ironically, a patient of Gosnell's testified at a recent state Senate committee hearing that she couldn't afford to have an abortion at Planned Parenthood, so she turned to Gosnell, who performed an abortion on her without anesthesia when she was 18 weeks pregnant.
Gosnell was indicted for homicide in the deaths of seven babies and one woman at his clinic in West Philadelphia. In the fallout to the indictment, it was discovered that his clinic had not been inspected by government agencies.
"The tragedy in the Gosnell clinic was a failure of government, not a failure of law," Hoover said. "National observers believe that Pennsylvania already has some of the toughest abortion regulations in the country. HB 574 will only make things worse for patients and for providers."
The state Senate is considering its own abortion-related legislation. Senate Bill 732 would alter the inspection process to ensure that clinics are inspected regularly.
"Measures that protect patient safety are essential," Hoover said. "SB 732 has some problematic provisions that could compromise patient and worker privacy and that could lead to unwarranted visits by inspectors. But the Senate bill is a much more reasonable approach than the House bill.
"Clinics won't close if SB 732 becomes law. Clinics could close if HB 574 is enacted."
HB 574 now heads to the Senate for consideration. SB 732 is expected to receive a Senate vote in late May or early June.