Limiting Abortion Access Isn’t the Answer to Gosnell

But the Pennsylvania House just passed a bill with the potential to do just that

A bill passed in the Pennsylvania House yesterday stiffening regulations to prevent future tragedies like those that befell disgraced abortion “doctor” Kermit Gosnell’s victims may only worsen the problem.

House Bill 574, proposed by Republican Rep. Matt Baker, expands the definition of “abortion facility” to include any institution that “provides surgical services meant to terminate the clinically diagnosable pregnancy of a woman with knowledge that the termination by those means will, with reasonable likelihood, case the death of the unborn child,” according to a press release on Baker’s website.

The problem with the bill, however, is that it puts in place too-harsh regulations that have the potential to increase the cost of abortions by up to $1,000—thus essentially removing access to abortions for those who can’t afford to pay. (Since, thanks to the Hyde Amendment, federal dollars can’t go toward abortions.)

The language in Baker’s bill screams pro-life, but the representative himself insists that the bill is about protecting women’s welfare, not limiting access to abortion. But in extensive reporting by City Paper’s Holly Otterbein (who appeared to be the only reporter to take notice to the fracas going on in Harrisburg over the bill), pro-choice advocates liken the bill to a pro-life “Trojan horse,” intended not to protect women, but to limit access.

Here’s the thing: I’m all for regulation that prevents another Kermit Gosnell from gravely injuring and killing innocent women. But it is not okay to make abortion any less accessible—especially to low-income women—than it already is. It has since come out that the reason many women sought abortions from Gosnell was because he offered lower prices for forgoing anesthesia, so it’s common sense that tighter regulations will only encourage more Gosnells to set up shop. Legislators at both the state and federal level need to make up their minds: Do they want to continue having an exhausted debate and passing underhanded laws in hopes of making abortion illegal again, or do they want to recognize abortion as the women’s right that it is and pass regulations accordingly? I guess we’ll see soon enough where the Pennsylvania legislators’ priorities are. But this bill’s passage, sans amendments, isn’t terribly comforting.

In any event, whether HB 574 will do what Baker claims without hindering abortion access remains to be seen, but I’m not convinced. If Baker did indeed put aside his pro-life beliefs and write this bill with women’s best interests in mind, then kudos to him. But not much abortion legislation pushed by Republicans lately has done so. And if Baker’s bill falls under that umbrella, then shame on him—and shame on the rest of the legislature who fought and debated the bill for days, then gave up and let it pass.