Earlier this year, Dr. Kermit Gosnell was charged with killing a patient at his Philadelphia abortion clinic, inducing the live birth of several babies then cutting their spines with scissors, and keeping jars of fetel feet for no medical purpose. Now his alleged crimes could have horrible consequences for all Pennsylvania women, not just those who were unfortunate enough to be his patients. Legislators in the state are using the Gosnell case as justification for an absurd new bill that could shut down all of the 20 freestanding abortion clinics in the state.
Philadelphia Weekly reports that SB 732 would require clinics to perform renovations to meet the building and staff requirements of ambulatory surgical facilities. This would include doubling the size of proceure rooms and installing hospital-style elevators. Plus, clinics would have to pay to have a RN in the room whenever a patient is present, even if they're just having their yearly Pap test. Pennsylvanians for Choice has determined that if the bill goes through, "most, if not all, of the 20 nonhospital-based clinics in Pennsylvania would either have to move or discontinue offering surgical abortion services altogether."
Anti-choice legislators argue that the new restrictions would prevent another monster like Gosnell from treating women. But Gosnell didn't start butchering babies because his hallways weren't wide enough. According to a report from Governor Tom Corbett himself (who's expected to support SB 732) Gosnell was able to continue running his veritable "house of horrors" because his clinic wasn't inspected for 15 years. Third trimester abortions (not to mention homicide and drug trafficking) are already illegal in the state, but officials simply weren't doing their job. As Corbett put it, "This doesn't even rise to the level of government run amok ... It was government not running at all."
Philadelphia Weekly reports:
Abortion clinics in Pennsylvania are already heavily regulated. Those with labs on site-most do-must be inspected under the federal Clinical Laboratories Improvement Amendments. Abortion providers performing 100 or more procedures a year must be registered with Patient Safety Authority and comply with MCARE Act, which requires inspections. Abortions in Pennsylvania can only be performed by licensed physicians, regulated by the state's Board of Medicine.
Lawmakers are invoking Gosnell's victims to justify the bill, but implementing unnecessary regulations that are impossible for clinics to meet is actually a classic tactic of anti-choicers. Kansas passed a similar measure over the summer, and curiously, Gosnell's name never came up.
The lesson to be learned from the Gosnell tradgedy is actually that women need better access to quality health care, particularly if they're poor. Gosnell is accused of performing abortions on low-income minorities and immigrants in the dirtier areas of his clinic because he thought they were less likely to complain than affluent white women. Women showed up to his clinic because they couldn't afford to get an abortion at a better facility. Now if SB 732 passes, it's estimated that the price of an abortion will jump from about $350 to $1,000. Wealthier women will still be able to afford abortions, but poor Pennsylvanian women, the same people Gosnell targeted, will essentially be banned from getting a safe and legal abortion.
Abortion Bill 732 Is Bad Medicine [Philadelphia Weekly]