Pa. House moves to tighten abortion-clinic rules

Posted: May 11, 2011

HARRISBURG - The state House approved a controversial bill Wednesday that would impose strict inspection and operating regulations on abortion clinics.

The 148-43 vote came after two days of fiery debate over issues cracked open this year by a grand jury's revelations of horrific conditions inside a Philadelphia abortion clinic that went uninspected for years.

The House proposal's fate is unclear in the Senate, which is working on a bill that is viewed as less onerous to facilities that perform abortions.

The House bill's chief sponsor, State Rep. Matthew Baker (R., Tioga), said the measure was written to protect women and ensure that the "evil" inside the clinic operated by Kermit Gosnell, now charged with murder, never happens again.

Prosecutors say Gosnell routinely performed late-term abortions and killed babies, some near full-term, who were born alive. He faces murder charges in the deaths of seven babies and one adult patient.

"The status quo is not a good option," said Baker. "If we save one woman's life, one child's life, one infant born alive and killed, by elevating the status of patient safety, this bill is worth it."

The Republican-backed bill would upgrade abortion clinics to "ambulatory surgical facilities," requiring them to abide by various fire, safety, and staffing regulations on top of those already required by law.

Opponents who spoke on the House floor - all of them Democrats - argued that the bill would greatly increase costs for the 20 abortion clinics statewide. They said its supporters' true intent was to curb access to abortion.

Rep. Dan Frankel (D., Allegheny) said the legislation could increase the costs of an abortion by as much as $1,000, making it more difficult for low-income women to get the procedure.

"I thought conservatives were supposed to be against big government and intrusive, overburdening regulations. This bill would drive many women to seek risky, illegal abortions based on price - the same issue that drove desperate women to the Philadelphia house of horrors."

The Senate bill, which is scheduled for a vote May 23, is sponsored by Sen. Pat Vance (R., Cumberland). It would require annual unannounced inspections of clinics and create a hotline for complaints, but would not require facility upgrades.


Contact staff writer Amy Worden at 717-783-2584 or aworden@phillynews.com.

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