Abortion clinics feel grip of new, tighter regulations
After police uncovered a "house of horrors" at a Philadelphia abortion clinic last year, legislators moved swiftly to introduce regulations governing providers, but two clinics the state ordered shut this week were in violation of longstanding state rules, officials said.
A Downtown clinic and another in Allentown closed after the registered physicians on staff quit -- the Abortion Control Act of 1982 requires clinics to have them -- leaving the state with 18 free-standing abortion providers.
Regulations lawmakers introduced in the wake of the investigation into the squalid Philadelphia clinic where two women died brought increased inspections. Some believe they may lead to standards so stringent that some clinics will have to close.
"These inspections and regulations are important and the clinics which were closed this week were not operating under the rules and regulations which are already in place, and we support them being closed," said Rebecca Cavanaugh, spokeswoman for Planned Parenthood of Western Pennsylvania, an abortion provider. "But we worry that for women with limited financial means, or limited means of transportation, this just removed two options."
American Women's Services on Fort Duquesne Boulevard was a registered abortion services provider as recently as last week, but the staff physician resigned and staff at the facility waited nine days to report it, state Health Department spokeswoman Holli Senior said. Staff at Allentown Medical Services also delayed reporting the resignation of the physician there, Senior said.
Bridget Wilson, spokeswoman for the Fort Duquesne location, did not return several emails and phone calls Friday, but on Thursday she said the clinic's physician had not quit and the clinic would appeal the closure. Calls to the American Women's Services call center also were not returned. There are about 34,000 abortions performed each year in Pennsylvania, Cavanaugh said.
"The day that place is closed for good will be a good day for women and their babies," Helen Cindrich, executive director of the Pittsburgh affiliate of the anti-abortion People Concerned for the Unborn Child, said of the Fort Duquesne Boulevard abortion provider.
The number of abortions performed at the two clinics closed this week are unavailable. Clinic staff aren't required to report them under the Abortion Control Act because neither facility receives state funds, Senior said.
After the Philadelphia clinic's operator, Kenneth Gosnell, was charged with murder in January 2011, several pieces of legislation surfaced to toughen regulations on abortion providers.
House Bill 574, which takes effect in June, toughens requirements on abortion clinics in Pennsylvania and includes an Ambulatory Surgical Facility Regulation, which requires abortion providers to have essentially the same staff qualifications and facilities as surgical clinics.
"Gosnell absolutely changed things, because we are seeing a lot more unannounced inspections to our facilities, which we welcome," Cavanaugh said. "People are more aware and are talking about the issues."
But she worries the extra regulations may make it financially impossible for some clinics to meet the new standards.
"Our concern is that more clinics will have to close, and that will remove more choices for women," she said.
Steven Brigham ran both of the clinics that closed this week. Maryland authorities filed murder charges against Brigham stemming from an investigation of an incident last year in which a teenager there was badly injured during a procedure to abort her 21-week-old fetus, police said.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Pennsylvania House approves increase in 911 phone bill fee to $1.65
- Family of 6 escapes just before freight train slams car in Lawrence County
- Decline in fire volunteers in Pennsylvania hits ‘crisis stage’
- Mother throws baby, leaps from Allentown bridge; police rescue both
- Small-town police struggle to survive as tax bases shrink
- Congressman rejects calls for recusal over romance with lobbyist
- Pa. state police: Crash that injured Senator Browne may be DUI
- Distracted driving arrests rise throughout Pennsylvania
- Planned DEP rules don’t satisfy gas industry, environmentalists
- Woman’s love of border collies, 9/11 attacks spark change in life