State House Passes Bill That Could Shut Down All Abortion Clinics in Pennsylvania
By Tara Murtha
Legislators got heated on the state House floor last night as they debated two bills with a big impact on (read: chiseling away of) women’s rights in Pennsylvania.
Rep. Daniel Frankel (D-Allegheny) tweeted at approximately 7 p.m: “#PAHouseGOP majority forcing vote on abortion restrictions bill. Instead, we should focus on #JobsJobsJobs.”
First up was Senate Bill 732. Drafted in the wake of the arrest of Kermit Gosnell, the West Philly doctor charged with killing viable babies, critics have called this bill a “back-door ban on abortion.”
Experts say that if SB732 is enacted, most, if not all, of the 20 freestanding abortion clinics in Pennsylvania will be forced to shut down. And the cost of an abortion, if you can find a provider, will skyrocket from approximately $350 to $1,000.
Currently, only 10 of our 67 counties have an abortion provider, according to the Pennsylvania Department of Health.
Long story short, SB732 mandates expensive and, according to safety reports issued by the Department of Health, seemingly unnecessary architectural renovations to upgrade abortion clinics to the same facility standards as “ambulatory surgical centers.”
“Under the guise of reform, it will shut down access,” Frankel said. “It will create more [Kermit] Gosnells, because women will not be able to afford or have access to a clinic.”
All the amendments proposed by House Democrats—including increased safety measures such as establishing a toll-free complaint hotline and mandating an inspection within 72 hours of a serious occurrence—were shot down, despite claims that the bill is intended to increase patient safety.
It’s telling to note that SB732 lacks the support or endorsement of medical societies. In fact, in a letter of opposition, the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists wrote that they “disagree vehemently” with the bill. “These additional requirements do nothing to increase patient safety … and will serve only to diminish access to quality health care for women of the Commonwealth.”
The American Civil Liberties Union and Planned Parenthood have already promised to file litigation challenging SB732. Similar, though less severe, legislation has been successfully challenged in other states.
The bill is expected to pass final consideration, then be sent back to the Senate, and then to the desk of Gov. Corbett, who has been endorsed by Pennsylvania Pro-Life Federation.
Then there is HB1977.
Sponsored by Rep. Donna Oberlander (R-Armstrong/Clarion), HB1977 prohibits insurance coverage of abortions for low-income people under the Affordable Healthcare Act, aka ObamaCare, scheduled to go into effect, if not overturned by challenges in the Supreme Court, in 2014.
“The U.S. Constitution guarantees a particular right for women all across this country, but here in Pennsylvania we will treat women as second-class citizens,” thundered Rep. Josh Shapiro (D-Montgomery).
A “medical emergency” amendment that would provide an exception for pregnant women with conditions causing irrevocable physical harm such as severe illness or infertility without abortion of her pregnancy, was rejected.
“I’m just amazed at that the people who are going to vote for this bill,” says Rep. Babette Josephs (D-Philadelphia). “They trust their constituents to vote for them, but not to make decisions for their own lives. That is unacceptable.”
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