It really is incredible. As I write this, the Pennsylvania General Assembly is 55 hours out from its deadline to pass its annual state budget. All of the bills are lining up for passage just in time to beat the deadline on Thursday, but it has been a mad rush here at the end, especially for those legislators who predicted that the budget would be done in May.
Even in the midst of all of this, the state House is inconceivably teeing up not one but two bills to rollback women’s access to reproductive healthcare. Senate Bill 3, which cuts off insurance coverage of abortion in the exchanges created by healthcare reform, and Senate Bill 732, which alters the legal requirements abortion clinics must follow, have both bounced out of committee and are headed to the House floor for a vote. Because it was amended in the House Health Committee, SB 732 would have to go to back to the Senate for a vote on “concurrence,” but without an amendment, SB 3 could head to the governor after passage in the House.
If anyone needs some help understanding the dangers of SB 732, check out this news from Kansas. Abortion clinics are struggling to meet new legal requirements there:
Kansas health regulators said today that the abortion clinics they’ve inspected so far have failed to meet the requirements to get a license under a law that takes effect Friday…
The new licensing law requires clinics to be inspected twice a year, including one unannounced review. It also spells out standards for operations, supplies, facilities and medical procedures.
The regulations total 36 pages. Among other things, they require any physician performing an abortion to have clinical privileges at a hospital within 30 miles of the clinic. They also require each facility to have drugs and equipment to deal with a medical crisis such as a heart attack or an allergic reaction to medication.
They also contain a number of requirements for the building including dressing rooms for staff that are equipped with a toilet, a sink and a place to store clothes. The procedure rooms are also required to be 150 square feet and the recovery area must be at least 80 square feet per patient.
The rules also set the temperature for the recovery rooms (between 70 and 75 degrees) and the procedure room (between 68 and 73 degrees).
The regulations were sent out to providers on June 17, only days before the inspections.
Sound familiar? The situations aren’t totally analogous since the Kansas requirements are different, but the strategy is the same: Alter the legal mandates in a way that creates a burden for the clinics, thus potentially cutting off women’s access to a legal right.
The supporters of HB 574 and SB 732 can wrap themselves in the language of patient safety all they wish, but the reality is that this legislation is straight out of the playbook of those who believe that the government should make medical decisions for women. And that is what puts patient safety at risk.