HARRISBURG- For the second time in a week, the Pennsylvania Senate voted today to significantly curtail women's access to reproductive healthcare. The revision of legal requirements for abortion providers passed by the Senate could be so expensive that clinics could either dramatically increase the cost of care or close their abortion services. And the American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania suggested that could lead to a public health crisis in Pennsylvania.
"Make no mistake about it. The Senate is continuing its march to cut off access to reproductive care," said Andy Hoover, legislative director of the ACLU of Pennsylvania. "Women will continue seeking abortions. But where are they going to go when they can't afford the care or there's nowhere to get it?"
In its original form, Senate Bill 732 codified the Department of Health's inspection process for abortion clinics. Last week, however, the Senate passed an amendment to force clinics that provide abortions after nine weeks gestation to follow the requirements of ambulatory surgical facilities (ASF). Hoover said that abortion clinics are already heavily regulated.
"Clinics have a long list of laws and regulations they have to follow," Hoover said. "If the Department of Health does its job and inspects the clinics, existing law can keep patients safe."
Hoover also contested the claims of some supporters of the amended SB 732 that the bill is intended to respond to the indictment of Dr. Kermit Gosnell in Philadelphia and to protect patient safety.
"The Arkansas legislature failed to pass a similar bill this session," Hoover said. "Gosnell didn't have a clinic in Arkansas. Why were they even considering a bill like this? The fact is that this initiative is right out of the playbook of those who believe that the government should make healthcare decisions for women."
The vote on SB 732 comes just seven days after the Senate passed a bill to prohibit insurance companies from offering plans that cover abortion care in the insurance exchange created by federal healthcare reform. The federal law already prohibits abortion coverage for customers who receive government subsidies to pay for policies, but the bill passed by the state Senate, SB 3, goes further by implementing a total prohibition of abortion coverage in the exchange.
SB 3 and SB 732 are both now under consideration in the House.