By Dave Andrusko
When a Grand Jury issued a blistering report surrounding abortionist Kermit Gosnell, it labeled plenty of blame for all parties, beginning with local health officials. So it came as no surprise today at a hearing called by state Sen. Sen. John H. Eichelberger Jr. that the defense offered by top Philadelphia health officials was that their powers were limited.
Gosnell stands accused of eight counts of murder.
Last month the Pennsylvania House overwhelmingly passed HB 574 which would hold abortion clinics to the same regulations that apply to freestanding ambulatory surgical centers. The bill was crafted in response to a grand jury’s shocking report on Gosnell. The jurors said Gosnell routinely performed late-term abortions and killed babies, some near full term, who were born alive by snipping their spinal cords.
A story in the Philadelphia Inquirer, noted that the report “questioned, in one damning paragraph after another, why state health officials didn’t treat the clinics as ambulatory surgical facilities – subject to stringent standards, annual inspections, and unannounced visits to investigate complaints.”
The Senate is considering a watered-down proposal. Sponsors argue the House bill contains many unnecessary requirements that would force some abortion clinics out of business. Ironically, the Inquirer editorialized in favor of the Senate version,
At today’s meeting held at Drexel University Eichelberger, who chairs the Senate’s local government committee, called regulation of abortion clinics a “joint responsibility.” But City Solicitor Shelley Smith and Health Commissioner Donald Schwarz weren’t buying.
“They said the city’s power is limited when it comes to abortion clinics, maintaining that the regulation of such facilities falls under the state Health Department,” the Associated Press reported
“Schwarz said the city is working to develop better procedures to help people who want to file complaints with the state. ’I can’t pull someone’s license,’ Schwarz said. ‘The state has the authority and the state has the ability to regulate health care facilities.’”
Eichelberger, for his part, “said the city must have some responsibility in regulating abortion clinics, noting that the city deals with such issues as prevention of disease, nuisances to public health, building code violations and waste pickup,” reported the AP’s Patrick Walters.
In the case of abortionist Kermit Gosnell, Eichelberger said, the city’s message was “We don’t care.”
He added, “Local oversight must have a prominent role,” concluding, “Local health departments have power to regulate.”