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Under Fire: PA Dept. of Health

Resumes Abortion Center Inspections

Maria V. Gallagher  |   24  September  2020

Following a firestorm of controversy, the embattled Pennsylvania Department of Health has quietly resumed inspections of abortion facilities.

 

Before the latest round of inspections, the last official check of abortion facilities occurred in February. According to the PA Health Department website, Planned Parenthood Keystone in Allentown and Warminster were inspected in late July, while Planned Parenthood of Western Pennsylvania was inspected in early August.

 

No reason for the five-month hiatus in inspections is indicated, but observers surmise the ostensible reason was COVID-19. However, the pandemic is all the more reason why abortion facilities in Pennsylvania should have been inspected. After all, the health and safety of countless women were—and are—at stake.

 

PA Governor Tom Wolf—a former volunteer clinic escort for Planned Parenthood—courted controversy early on in the pandemic by allowing facilities to continue to perform abortions—even though ambulatory surgical facilities were barred from doing surgeries because of a fear of spreading the Coronavirus. Indeed, Planned Parenthood Keystone actually posted on its website that it was only performing abortions during the pandemic, with other health services being abandoned. As a result, Planned Parenthood became a 100 percent abortion facility during COVID-19.

 

Throughout the Commonwealth, businesses had to shutter their doors in March because of a Governor's order barring operation of any business not deemed an "essential service." Pro-life advocates rightfully condemned the idea that abortions would be labeled "essential services" in Pennsylvania.

 

Abortion center inspections are a matter of law in the Keystone State. A 2011 statute governing abortion center inspections was enacted in the wake of the Kermit Gosnell scandal. The abortionist was suspected of killing hundreds of newborn babies in his “House of Horrors” facility in West Philadelphia. Prosecutors could bring criminal charges in only a handful of cases, because Gosnell had destroyed so many records. Gosnell did preserve something else: the severed feet of his victims.

 

Gosnell is now serving three consecutive life terms in prison for the murder of three precious newborn babies. He was also convicted of involuntary manslaughter in the death of an adult female patient, Karnamaya Mongar.

 

State Senator Mike Regan, a Republican serving Cumberland and York counties, sent a letter to the Wolf Administration a number of weeks ago. Regan demanded accountability from Gov. Tom Wolf and Health Secretary Rachel Levine for the lack of inspections at PA abortion facilities. 

 

Many state lawmakers have chided the Wolf Administration for a lack of transparency in its response to the pandemic. The oversight of abortion facilities has been similarly opaque, with citizens wondering when abortion center inspections would resume. 

 

In the Gosnell grand jury report, jurors stated that pro-abortion politics had prevented abortion facilities in Pennsylvania from being inspected while Gosnell plied his grisly trade. Republican Governor Tom Ridge and Democratic Governor Ed Rendell refused to order inspections, claiming that they could prevent “abortion access.” Hair and nail salons received greater scrutiny than abortion facilities.

 

Gov. Wolf is a close ally of Planned Parenthood, the nation’s largest abortion operation, and has vetoed numerous pro-life bills. For instance, the Governor vetoed the popular Down Syndrome Protection Act, which would have banned abortion for the sole reason of a prenatal diagnosis of Down syndrome.

 

The bill grew out of the controversy surrounding the astronomical rate of abortion of babies with Down syndrome. In Pennsylvania and the rest of the country, research indicates the vast majority of babies diagnosed with Down syndrome in the womb are aborted. The bill had wide bipartisan support, but fell victim to the Governor’s veto pen.

 

The Governor also vetoed a bill that would have banned the brutal practice of dismemberment abortions, where a baby is torn limb by limb from the mother's womb. The bill would have also changed the legal limit for abortions in Pennsylvania from 24 weeks to 20 weeks gestation to reflect advances in health care, which allow premature infants to be saved at ever-earlier stages of development.

 

Additionally, the Governor vetoed a long-awaited telemedicine bill, which would have expanded telemedicine opportunities in the Commonwealth. The reason? The bill contained a provision that would have banned tele-abortions, where a doctor is not physically present during a chemical abortion but is only available via a computer screen. 

 

Governor Wolf has further pledged to veto any future bill which places any limits on abortion.

 

While pro-life advocates are relieved that abortion center inspections have resumed in Pennsylvania, they worry about the women who visited abortion facilities during the five months when inspections did not occur. The February inspection of the Philadelphia Women’s Center found cases where minor girls obtained chemical abortions without the consent of a parent—a clear violation of Pennsylvania law. It is not known whether the Philadelphia Women’s Center has corrected that deficiency since the PA Health Department website shows no follow-up after the failed inspection this past winter.   

       

 

Maria V. Gallagher 

Legislative Director, Pennsylvania Pro-Life Federation  gallagher@paprolife.org