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It is Time to Reverse the Unintended Consequences of SB 732

During the 2011-12 session, Senator Vance drafted SB 732 to improve the inspections and operations of health care facilities that offer abortions. Her well intentioned bill was a response to the Dr. Gosnell case.

The original bill was good and was supported by a wide variety of groups including Planned Parenthood. The original bill required two annual inspections of all abortion clinics including an unannounced inspection. However, the bill was hijacked by anti-abortion forces through the Mensch amendment. The Mensch amendment put into place many tough and burdensome regulations that forced some abortion clinics to close. It failed to address the real cause of the Gosnell horrors, a lack of regular inspections. I listened and read the opposition to this bill from Planned Parenthood, NOW, and other women's health advocates. Their arguments against the Mensch amendment were logical and right on target. That's why I voted against the Mensch Amendment. Unfortunately, the Mensch Amendment passed 31-18.

While, I opposed the Mensch amendment, I supported the bill on final passage because it required annual inspections for health care facilities that perform abortions. The horrors of the Gosnell tragedy, the grand jury report that showed fundamental flaws in our regulatory structure, and the strong desire to protect women by preventing another Gosnell type tragedy led me to vote yes on the bill during final passage because it required two annual inspections of health care facilities. This bill passed with an overwhelming majority of Senators by a 38-12 vote.

Like many bills that we pass in Harrisburg there have been unintended consequences. I never would have voted for the bill if I had known that it would lead to closures of health care facilities that perform abortions. I never intended for this bill to harm women's health care or to make it harder to get an abortion. Rather, I wanted to make sure that the facilities that women went to when they have made the difficult decision to get an abortion are safe, clean, and offer all of the supports that a woman needs during this difficult decision.

These unintended consequences have led me to start drafting a Senate Bill to get rid of the Mensch Amendment and keep the annual inspections. While this is a good start, if elected Lieutenant Governor, I plan to take this a step further. I will work with our next Governor and his key administrators to adopt regulations, policy statements, and budgets that will help women's health clinics grapple with the unintended consequences of this bill, prevent them from closing, and protect women's health care throughout the Commonwealth.