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Reprieve Period for Abortion Clinics Underway

Act 122, or the Targeted Regulation of Abortion Providers (TRAP) law, passed in December 2011, was to have been enforced today, but providers have received some additional time to comply. TRAP requires surgical abortion clinics to abide by the same regulations as freestanding surgical centers. If they failed to do so by June 19, either they were given a temporary license or could not operate.

The law was in response to the murder charges filed against Philadelphia abortion provider Kermit Gosnell, who allegedly killed women and viable infants during procedures carried out in squalid conditions.

The only surgical abortion clinic associated with Planned Parenthood of Western Pennsylvania received a provisional license for six months until December.

Christine Cronkright, Director of Communications at the Pennsylvania Department of Health, said if the clinics didn't meet the standards, the decision was left up to the state.

"Basically what that means is that they are not fully up to the requirements yet to become an ambulatory surgical facility. There are still a few outstanding items that they need to complete, but we have agreed that we can put them on a provisional license for a period of time until such time that they can come into compliance," Cronkright said.

The clinic's time frame varies on their classification, though. Clinics operating in Pennsylvania had to apply to be either a Class A or Class B facility under TRAP.

Class A clinics perform surgeries that require only local anesthesia, while Class B facilities perform surgeries with anesthesia that makes the patient less than fully conscious.

Class A facilities with a provisional license have only 3 months, until September, to be accredited by a nationally-recognized accrediting agency. Once accredited, they can be approved by the state. The Hillcrest Women's Medical Center in Harrisburg has already been classified as a Class A clinic, while four more facilities have applications in the state for a Class A license.

Class B facilities with a provisional license have six months to come into compliance with requirements outlined for full-ambulatory surgical facilities. Pittsburgh's Planned Parenthood facility applied to be a Class B clinic, along with seven others in the commonwealth.

Add it up though, and it leaves eight clinics out of the 22 in the state unaccounted for.

"We expect 14 of those 22 to qualify to perform surgical abortions in Pennsylvania under the new law, one of which already has," Cronkright said. "We've heard from all of the facilities in one way, shape or form at this point in time."

Cronkright said that the remainder are moving forward in becoming medical abortion providers instead of surgical abortion providers. UPMC Magee Women's Hospital clinic voluntarily closed its doors Friday.

As for the Planned Parenthood in downtown Pittsburgh, Rebecca Cavanaugh, Vice President of Communications for the clinic, said the reason they needed the provisional license was not because of resistance to TRAP or the Department of Health.

"By the time the first six months were up today, we still didn't know where we were going," Cavanaugh said, "so they've given us a provisional license to continue to work out the details of the situation."

Cavanaugh said the six months were spent trying to determine whether or not the clinic should be a Class A or Class B clinic. The facility has always been one to use sedation for the surgical procedure, so the internal decision was to apply for a Class B.

Cavanaugh said Planned Parenthood of Western Pennsylvania is confident it will become a permanent licensed provider.