Competing Clinic Regulation Bills in Pennsylvania: “Overreaction” or Lapsing Back into Indifference?

By Dave Andrusko

Something will come out of the horrific scandal that took place in the Women’s Medical Society abortion clinic in West Philadelphia, whose owner, Kermit Gosnell stands accused of eight counts of murder. The question is whether the Pennsylvania legislature will settle for the least possible reform of abortion clinics in the Keystone State or get serious.

The state House has overwhelmingly passed HB 574 which would hold abortion clinics to the same regulations that apply to freestanding ambulatory surgical centers. No more, no less.

A photo of abortionist Kermit Gosnell, accused of eight counts of murder, next to his Women's Medical Society abortion clinic.

The state Senate has its own water-down proposal, Senate Bill 732. However, state Senators will have a chance to do the right thing by supporting the Mensch Amendment.

The Pennsylvania Pro-Life Federation, National Right to Life’s affiliate, describes the Mensch Amendment as “almost identical to HB 574 which passed the House by a 2:1 margin last week and would require abortion facilities to abide by the same standards as other ambulatory surgical facilities.” 

The editorial pages of many of the larger papers are attempting political ju-jitsu—turn the voter anger and frustration at the half-hazard “oversight” of Gosnell against legislators who want to make sure no abortion clinic—Gosnell’s or anyone else’s—can get away with becoming what the Grand Jury described as a “House of Horrors.” 

This morning’s Philadelphia Inquirer’s blast at HB 574 is typical. The bill “smacks of an overreaction,” we’re told. A once a year inspection and a “complaint hotline”—that’s more than enough. Indeed, the finishing touch is to insist that the state’s “abortion regulations are already among the toughest on the books” and that the real answer—“the best way”–to protect women “is to enforce existing safety standards.”

A couple of thoughts. First, follow up investigations found that Gosnell’s clinic was not the only one with problems. So it’s not just one man’s cruelty and indifference that needs to be reined in.

Second, what screams out from the Grand Jury report is that enforcement was completely a function of who was governor. Once pro-life Gov. Bob Casey left, bureaucrats were much, MUCH more concerned—as is the editorial page writer for the Inquirer—about whether regulating abortion clinics might hamper a woman’s “right” to have abortion than about whether women might die and hundreds of viable babies be aborted alive and then allegedly murdered when their spinal cords were severed.

Making sure an abortion clinic meets the same standards as other ambulatory surgical facilities is not a fall-safe, by any means. But in COMBINATION with regular, unannounced inspections it would greatly minimize the chances that the Gosnell scandal would ever be repeated.

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