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EDITORIAL: Women at risk: Abortion clinic legislation passes on a pretext [Pittsburgh Post-Gazette]

By Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
McClatchy-Tribune Information Services

Dec. 19--When the gruesome details of an abortion clinic operated by Kermit Gosnell in Philadelphia came to light early this year, the outrage was not limited to the usual foes of abortion. After a grand jury reported its finding, the Post-Gazette called this rogue facility a "house of horror."

The renegade facility -- operated by a physician not certified to perform abortions -- had not been inspected since 1993. It operated in conditions of squalor that defied basic public health standards. Dr. Gosnell and four other employees were charged with murder for deeds that would shock anyone's conscience.

So what did the Legislature decide to do? It passed Senate Bill 732, which requires clinics to have hospital-grade elevators, bigger operating rooms, parking lots and driveways than can handle ambulances. In short, the bill insists that abortion clinics be treated like ambulatory surgical facilities.

But what does this have to do with Philadelphia's house of horrors? Very little. The problem there was the facility operated more like a concentration camp than a regular abortion clinic due to the depravity of at least some of those who worked there. The size of the elevators or the parking lot was not the problem.

There's no need to pass a new law to do what the old laws stated and which just need to be vigorously enforced. There's no need to make abortion clinics conform to ambulatory surgical facility standards, unless the point is to make existing clinics pay millions of dollars to make unneeded changes to their facilities.

That, of course, is exactly the point. In lieu of a constitutional amendment to outlaw the procedure, the anti-abortion movement's political strategy has been to inflict on providers one onerous law after another, so as to achieve death by a thousand cuts.

The Pennsylvania Legislature has now played its part. If Gov. Tom Corbett signs this bill, it is likely that most abortion clinics in the state would have to shut down, at least for a while. Thousands of women would be effectively deprived of their right to choose. Even if clinics return after expensive and unnecessary renovations, the price of abortions will rise and some may have to resort -- irony of ironies -- to freelance houses of horror.

Gov. Corbett, who opposed federal health care reform on constitutional grounds, should realize that this bill is more constitutionally problematic and veto it as a matter of consistency. Unfortunately, the scorned women of the state should not hold their breath.

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(c)2011 the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

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Visit the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette at www.post-gazette.com

Distributed by MCT Information Services

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