June 19, 2012 — Fourteen of Pennsylvania's 22 abortion clinics have received licenses allowing them to continue providing services under a new state law, the Philadelphia Inquirer reports.
The law was enacted in December and takes effect on Tuesday (McCullough, Philadelphia Inquirer, 6/19). The legislation requires clinics to comply with the same requirements as ambulatory surgical facilities, including building standards, staff credentialing, quality assurance plans and more (Darragh, Lehigh Valley Morning Call, 6/18). Although the state Department of Health waived some of the requirements -- such as installing hospital-grade elevators and having larger operating rooms -- the others remain intact (Philadelphia Inquirer, 6/19).
To meet the requirements, clinics must either upgrade their facilities or relocate to new buildings (Women's Health Policy Report, 12/22/11).
Most Licenses Provisional
All but one of the 14 licenses are considered provisional until the completion of construction over the next three to six months. Hillcrest Women's Medical Center in Harrisburg is the only clinic that was granted a full license. Six of the licenses allow the clinics to provide abortion care up to 14 weeks of pregnancy, while eight are for providing the procedure up to about 18 weeks (Philadelphia Inquirer, 6/19).
Of the eight clinics that did not receive licenses, one in the Pittsburgh will no longer provide abortion care, state officials said. Two clinics affiliated with medical centers at the University of Pittsburgh and the University of Pennsylvania will continue to operate under a hospital license, and five will be allowed to offer medication abortion but not surgical abortion (Levy, AP/Washington Times, 6/18).
Proponents, Opponents Comment on New Law
Proponents of the clinic regulations said they are a response to the case of Kermit Gosnell, who was indicted by a grand jury last year for an illegal abortion operation that led to the deaths of several infants and two pregnant women. Health Secretary Eli Avila called the law "a public health victory" (Lehigh Valley Morning Call, 6/18).
Clinics operators in the state have said the Gosnell case was a result of the state not enforcing existing rules and that the regulations are unnecessary. The new law was not prompted by concern for women's safety but opposition to abortion, they said (Philadelphia Inquirer, 6/19).
Planned Parenthood of Central Pennsylvania President Suellen Craig said clinics have had to renovate facilities, purchase new equipment and retrain staff to comply with the new regulations. "Even in the face of burdensome, medically unnecessary regulations, we will do what it takes to be there for the women counting on us," PPCP said.
Despite the difficult process, the Department of Health has been fair in its implementation of the new law, Craig added (AP/Washington Times, 6/18).