‘Back Door Ban’ on Abortion Takes Effect Today
A law deemed a ‘Back Door Ban’ on abortion rights in Pennsylvania has partially gone into effect today. The law, formerly Senate Bill 732, requires “that clinics renovate their buildings to adhere to the architectural codes and staffing requirements of ambulatory surgical facilities,” as Philadelphia Weekly reported last fall. As of today, 14 of the state’s 22 abortion clinics have been licensed to continue providing surgical abortion services, pending final approval. The eight others have either been closed, placed under a hospital license or will only be allowed to provide abortions using medication, not invasive surgery.
SB 732 was pushed through the legislature after the grand jury report of Dr. Kermit Gosnell was released, in which it was found his West Philadelphia clinic had killed two women and hundreds of babies. Supporters of the bill used Gosnell’s example as the reasoning behind their crusade. As Rep. Matt Baker wrote of the bill before its signing: “This is about patient safety and preventing future cases of murder and infanticide within abortion clinics.”
Not so, according to PW scribe Tara Murtha’s report on the legislation:
But architectural renovations at 3801 Lancaster Ave. would not have prevented Gosnell. He didn’t avoid detection because of a lack of laws—homicide, third-trimester abortion and drug trafficking are already illegal. He avoided detection because, as Gov. Corbett wrote in a statement released in the wake of his arrest, the Department of Health and Department of State weren’t doing their jobs. They weren’t applying laws and regulations already on the books .
“This doesn’t even rise to the level of government run amok,” wrote Corbett in a statement in response to the grand jury report. “It was government not running at all.”
Incredibly, the state government is still touting the Gosnell storyline. With today’s enactment of the law, Secretary of Health Dr. Eli N. Avila called this “a public health victory,” noting, “Since my first day on the job, the Department of Health has been working tirelessly to ensure that the horrors that took place in the Kermit Gosnell clinic in Philadelphia could never happen again.”
Only 10 counties in Pennsylvania have abortion clinics, as shown in the below map.
According to a Pennsylvania Department of Public Health press release, six of the 14 facilities that are likely to “qualify to perform surgical abortions in Pennsylvania under the new law” are pursuing Class A registration, which will provide “a provisional license for three months, during which time each facility will seek accreditation toward registration.” The others are seeking Class B licenses, which will allow a “provisional license for six months, allowing them time to meet any outstanding requirements to become ambulatory surgical facilities.” According to the Inquirer, the Health Department has conceded clinics don’t have to meet “the most daunting” architectural standards, like “hospital-type” elevators and 400-square foot operating rooms. However, many costly standards have remained in place.
The law was driven by abortion foes and “pro-family” groups, such as the Pennsylvania Catholic Conference, the Pennsylvania Family Institute and the Pennsylvania Pro-Life Federation. Though, as has been noted, a lawyer for the National Right to Life had written as early as 2007 that mandated ambulatory surgical facilities upgrades could be used as a way to “advance … pro-life causes.”
The state government has attempted to push through other pro-life bills as of late, including invasive ultrasound legislation which would have required women seeking abortions to get an ultrasound and, in one conception of the bill, listen to the fetus’ heartbeat and keep a physical picture of said ultrasound. Gov. Tom Corbett infamously noted of forcing women to receive a state-mandated ultrasound — referred to as the ‘Women’s Right to Know Act’ — that women “just have to close your eyes,” rather than look at the image.