In a transparent attempt to usurp the personal power endowed upon us by Roe v. Wade, the Pennsylvania Assembly is considering legislation that would make it impossible for the currently-operating, well-regulated abortion providers in Pennsylvania to continue to provide health care services. While abortion clinics in Pennsylvania are currently regulated in accordance with 28 Pa. Code Ch. 29, Subchapter D – Ambulatory Gynecological Surgery in Hospitals and Clinic, Senate Bill 732 [PDF] would apply Ambulatory Surgical Facility (ASF) regulations to abortion clinics, even for simple, early first trimester procedures. ASF regulations would mandate larger operating room size, fire extinguishing provisions and ventilation capacities that current non-hospital based facilities cannot meet.
This bill was proposed in response to the discovery of the clandestine Gosnell horror clinic in Philadelphia. In the grand jury report [PDF], Pennsylvania Department of Health and Pennsylvania Department of State officials were called out by name for their extremely negligent oversight of this clinic. And now, legislators are attempting to cover their tracks. But anti-choice politicians have seized the opportunity to eliminate any choice for women of abortion care altogether by closing abortion facilities for structural details as minor as an improperly sized closet. If passed, a compliant clinic would be given inadequate time (180 days to widen hallways, increase procedure room size, install new ventilation, and etc. is inadequate time) to make the structural changes necessary to comply with structural requirements for ambulatory facilities.
But imposing new regulations does not mean that the new regulations will be enforced. Instead of new, stricter regulations, we need better oversight and stricter enforcement of the current regulations for abortion clinics. Or if new regulation is the only viable solution, phased-in enforcement of ASF regulations not related to reporting, inspection, enforcement or licensure should be agreed. I agree with the grand jury, inspecting a medical facility only once in ten years is grossly negligent oversight, and endangers patient safety. We need to do better.
What follows is the letter I wrote to my state Senator expressing my opposition to Senate Bill 732, as amended. If you live in PA, please take the time to contact your state Senator about Senate Bill 732.
Dear Senator _________,I write to you to express my genuine concern for the consequences a piece of legislation currently being considered by the Pennsylvania Senate, Senate Bill 732 (SB 732). As amended, SB 732, if passed, would create a dangerous health care situation. As you know, SB 732 adopts facility standards for all abortion clinics that most western PA abortion providers cannot currently meet, and would face grave structural and financial burdens to meet if such standards were enacted. The effective date of the legislation is such that no structural changes could be rendered to such facilities before their enforcement, and these clinics would be forced to close.This legislation was proposed under the supposedly well-intentioned premise that patients need to be protected from illegal, unsafe surgical abortion facilities like the one uncovered in Philadelphia. Upon examination, this is an obvious lie. This legislation does nothing to protect women from dubious ‘doctors’ who care nothing for their health and well-being. It is my personal view that this legislation will have the opposite effect. This legislation would close most of the clinics in Pennsylvania due to structural nonconformances unrelated to ensuring medical health or patient safety.Closing the currently well-regulated, compliant abortion facilities will make abortion inaccessible to most Pennsylvania women. In addition, many women will be unable to afford a legal abortion due to the increase in cost to providers due to increased regulation. Consequently, utterly desperate women will seek clandestine services from unregulated, illegal providers. Women may seek abortion care out of state. Or, sadly, women may attempt extremely dangerous self-abortion. The indirect effects of this legislation are innumerable.If the genuine concern of the Pennsylvania Assembly is the health and safety of women, the assembly should readdress this bill and pass laws that do not manufacture health crises. Or, if new regulation is the only viable solution, phased-in enforcement of ambulatory surgical facility regulations not related to reporting, inspection, enforcement or licensure should be agreed. If the real concern of the Pennsylvania Assembly is usurping Roe v. Wade by eliminating safe abortion access in Pennsylvania, then this bill is unconstitutional.I agree with the grand jury, inspecting a medical facility only once in ten years is grossly negligent oversight, and endangers patient safety. We need to do better. But as evidenced by the Gosnell indictment, enacting regulations does not mean the regulations will be enforced. In addition, this legislation does nothing to actually protect patients. Your yes vote on this bill will create a public health crisis, fuel a clandestine abortion industry, and endanger women’s lives. I urge you to vote no on SB 732.Sincerely yours,