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Pennsylvania House Takes Up Two Abortion-Related Measures

State lawmakers are pushing for tighter regulations on clinics that perform abortions in Pennsylvania. House and Senate lawmakers, largely Republican, say new license and inspection requirements will put facilities providing abortions on the same footing as other outpatient surgery centers.

State Senator Jane Orie (R-Allegheny) referred to the 2008 effort to regulate commercial dog breeders. She said women's and children's health should get at least as much scrutiny. "We went to great lengths to do the puppy mill legislation, to ensure that whatever you do in regards to these puppies, that it's regulated and that there's safety and welfare," Orie said. "For God's sake, this is about children and women."

The proposal was spurred by a grand jury investigation into a clinic run by Dr. Kermit Gosnell. The probe found his Philadelphia clinic performed abortions in a reckless and illegal manner, causing unnecessary deaths along the way.

Representative Matt Baker (R-Bradford) said this is not about closing abortion clinics but rather patient safety. "My goodness, there have been people charged with seven or more murders affiliated with this Gosnell abortion clinic," Baker said. "There have been charges of infanticide, killing live babies in this abortion clinic. That has to end."

However, critics say requiring the abortion clinics to meet the same standards as ambulatory surgical centers is too burdensome and would force many of the 20 stand-alone clinics to close. "Abortion clinics already follow a long list of statutes and regulations that monitor their activity, and put certain requirements on those clinics," said Andy Hoover of the ACLU of Pennsylvania. "The Gosnell house of horrors was a failure of government, not a failure of the law. The state government made a choice under various administrations to not do the inspections rigorously, and as a result, a Gosnell was able to exist."

The other bill, also approved earlier this year by the Senate, would bar health insurance exchanges in Pennsylvania, which are to be created as part of the national health care law, from covering abortions. The House is slated to take up the two measures next week.