Pa. Senate moves worry abortion rights advocates

    Abortion rights advocates say the Pennsylvania Senate is trying to drastically scale back the number of procedures in the state.

    Earlier this week, the chamber amended a bill responding to Kermit Gosnell’s “house of horrors” Philadelphia clinic. The measure would reclassify abortion clinics as ambulatory surgical facilities, which means the clinics would need to drastically change their codes and equipment.

    Sari Stevens, the executive director of Planned Parenthood Pennsylvania Advocates, said the fixes would be prohibitively expensive, and would lead many clinics to simply close their doors. “Facilities would need to triple their procedure room size,” she said. “This has no implications on public safety, but is incredibly costly, and may be impossible for a facility either to afford or to accomplish within their existing building.”

    Cumberland County Republican Pat Vance wrote the initial bill, but objected to the changes. “Now, there are a lot of arguments that I believe are sort of a façade, to say, ‘Oh, we need to get these women this standard of care.’ Not true. We are using this as a façade to close down these clinics.”

    The legislation–there’s a similar House bill, as well–is a response to Philadelphia abortion provider Kermit Gosnell’s clinic, where prosecutors allege viable infants were delivered, and then killed. He’s also charged in the death of a woman who suffered a botched procedure.

    “This is a priority,” said Republican Jane Orie during Wednesday’s debate, arguing for the amendment. “Quite frankly, it’s about life or death issues, and is a priority that deserves preference over the budget at this time. Especially when (the lack of new regulations) can cause more deaths.”

    Orie has kept her floor speeches and public appearances to a minimum, after being charged with using state resources to conduct campaign work. Policies put in place by Gov. Tom Corbett require more frequent inspections of Pennsylvania’s clinics.

    The Senate also passed a bill barring people from using the state new health care exchanges to fund abortions. The exchanges are part of last year’s federal health care law, and go into effect in 2014.

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