John Baer: Legislature aborts responsibility to govern

Gosnell's West Philadelphia clinic is a red herring; he didn't follow the rules already in place.
Gosnell's West Philadelphia clinic is a red herring; he didn't follow the rules already in place. (SARAH J. GLOVER / Staff photographer)
Posted: June 15, 2011

THERE'S just no end to the ideological nonsense, time-wasting and outright hypocrisy in our Legislature.

While any responsible deliberative body these days might focus on helping the state economy by, say, reforming tax laws, or helping education by fixing the unfair state funding formula, our lawmakers focus on (ta da!) abortion.

Never mind that we are but a few legislative days from a June 30 deadline for a budget unsettled on key issues of taxes and spending.

Never mind that abortion is settled law in these United States.

Our electeds - in both parties, but driven by Republican control - are using an aberrant tragedy to limit access to abortion.

Is this really the will of the people? Is abortion accessibility a top-tier statewide public concern?

Yet, in the wake of Kermit Gosnell, charged in January with the murder of a woman and seven babies at his "house of horrors" Philly clinic, lawmakers are pushing for more regulation of all abortion-providers.

This from a body run by Republicans, the party of less government, less regulation - talk about situational beliefs.

There are 20 free-standing clinics in the state and two clinic-like providers at hospitals, all in or near urban areas.

Lawmakers propose treating these as outpatient surgical facilities, meaning they'd all need large surgical suites, large hospital-type elevators and full-time, on-site registered nurses.

Providers say such increased regulation isn't needed and will force clinics to close, at least until they upgrade, and possibly permanently depending on costs.

God forbid someone with sense would apply the regulations only to new clinics.

A cynic might suggest this whole exercise is nothing more than a pro-life fundraiser - for that matter, a pro-choice fundraiser.

No matter. Such a measure passed the House last month, 148-43, with bipartisan support.

The Senate version is an amendment by Sen. Bob Mensch, R-Montco, a/k/a "The Gunslinger," who's appealing a recent conviction on charges that he "displayed" a handgun to a fellow motorist on I-78 during a little road-rage fun.

His effort is vigorously supported by Sen. Jane Orie, R-Pittsburgh, whose political-corruption charges led to a mistrial but who now awaits a second trial.

(Neither of these servants should be confused with Democratic Reps. John Galloway, Bucks County, or Cherelle Parker, Philadelphia, both recently charged with DUI, but it seems to me that lawmakers might want to focus on self-regulation.)

During the debate, Orie said the abortion measure should take "preference over the budget" because not adding more regulations "can cause more deaths."

Really? So if we only had more regulations, Gosnell's clinic would have been a safe, clean urban oasis for women?

Please. The guy wasn't obeying existing regulations. The problem was that the state Health Department didn't do its job. Since then, the department has adopted new inspection procedures and a system for rapid response to complaints.

The Senate bill includes an amendment requiring a study of costs to clinics after the bill is law. How useful. What a good investment of tax dollars.

Nonetheless, the Senate passed its bill with amendments yesterday, 38-12, with bipartisan support.

It now goes to the House (because why would they ever agree on one piece of legislation?), where more time can be spent pushing a social issue wrapped in the guise of protecting "women's health."

Oh, that we all had more regulations protecting us from them.

Send email to baerj@phillynews.com.

For recent columns, go to

www.philly.com/JohnBaer. Read Baer's blog at www.philly.com/BaerGrowls.

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