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New clinic rules will harm women's health

Gov. Corbett should carefully consider the consequences and refuse to sign legislation that would roll back women's ability to obtain safe abortions.

Before it adjourned for the holidays, the state Senate approved a bill Wednesday that goes too far in tightening regulations on abortion clinics. Supporters say the measure will prevent more travesties such as the deaths of unborn babies that led to murder charges against Kermit Gosnell, the operator of a Philadelphia abortion clinic.

Bad clinics that recklessly endanger the health of women and the lives of unborn children should be closed immediately. But that is not the true motivation behind this legislation. This bill represents a blatant attempt to shut down even those abortion clinics that have operated safely and without incident for years.

It's worth noting that Sen. Pat Vance (R., Cumberland), a former nurse who sponsored the original bill, voted against this more draconian version, which dropped provisions that were more directly aimed at preventing another Gosnell atrocity.

The Senate bill requires the state's 22 free-standing abortion clinics to abide by the more stringent fire, safety, and staffing regulations of nonhospital surgery centers. The expense of meeting those standards will put many abortion clinics out of business.

Having fewer clinics in the state will severely reduce access to vital health services for 37,000 women, many of them low-income, who seek safe, legal abortions each year, not to mention thousands of others who need birth control, cancer screenings, and other tests.

A second unneeded anti-abortion bill approved by both houses would prohibit abortion coverage in any policy obtained through the new federally funded health-insurance exchanges. Supporters say the bill would prevent the use of taxpayer dollars for "selective abortions." But Pennsylvania's federally approved plan to establish health-insurance exchanges already clearly states that "elective abortions are not covered." And a recent poll found that 79 percent of Pennsylvanians believe insurance companies should cover abortions in medical emergencies.

These attacks on reproductive health rights must stop, especially in a state that already has some of the toughest abortion laws.