Think back to a time in Pennsylvania when a woman who obtained an abortion was discharged while still experiencing extensive bleeding; anesthesia drugs were administered without proper protocols; and uncredentialed staff were operating, often while using unsterilized surgical instruments. Is this 1972 Pennsylvania – before Roe v. Wade? No. This is Pennsylvania today.

Conditions like these are not occurring in a dark, hidden alley somewhere in the Commonwealth, but in many of the eighteen legal abortion clinics around the state of which half failed a legally-mandated inspection in 2023. These annual Pennsylvania Department of Health inspections happen — and these life-threatening failures are only known – thanks to the 2011 law enacted after a Philadelphia Grand Jury report revealed Dr. Kermit Gosnell’s “house of horrors” abortion clinic in West Philadelphia. Gosnell was convicted of first-degree murder and other crimes and was sentenced to three life terms.

Act 122 of 2011 ended the carve out for abortion facilities from the same building and safety requirements as every other ambulatory surgical facility. Without this law, these horrendous practices could continue in secret and unexposed, putting women at risk. In fact, Planned Parenthood and other abortion operators actively opposed the health and safety regulations, aggressively lobbying lawmakers over the 10-month period it took to pass the bill, signed by then-Gov. Tom Corbett.

On the anniversary of Roe v. Wade, pro-abortion legislators, along with the state’s largest abortion operator Planned Parenthood, announced their newly proposed bill to repeal the current safety regulations. Politicians who seek, at the behest of abortion clinics, to remove existing health and safety regulations show that the support from the abortion industry takes priority over women’s health, despite rhetoric claiming otherwise. 

This group of Democrat legislators referred to standards such as hallways and elevators wide enough to allow a gurney in case of an emergency and requiring doctors to have admitting privileges at a local hospital as “barriers” to abortion labeling them as too restrictive and “unnecessary.” This should sound alarm bells: Are health and safety regulations “unnecessary”? 

Take the Abortion Control Act’s requirement that only licensed physicians may perform abortions. The latest abortion statistics report shows complications from abortions in Pennsylvania have tripled in the last five years. Yet the abortion industry is lobbying to allow less qualified personnel like midwives and nurses to perform surgical abortions. How is that looking out for women’s health and safety?

So, what have these legally mandated inspections revealed? The Pennsylvania Department of Health reported failures at some of the largest abortion facilities in the state (reports are publicly available on the Department of Health website). On April 15, 2021, the inspection report showed that Allentown Women’s Center discharged an eighteen-year-old woman with extensive bleeding. She returned to the center where they attempted another abortion procedure, and when that failed and the young woman in pain had increased bleeding, they called for an ambulance. The woman had to undergo surgery and received four units of blood and plasma. 

Planned Parenthood York failed to report that “a serious event was substantiated” according to a failed unannounced special monitoring survey, June 22, 2023. On March 30, 2023, Planned Parenthood Southeastern Pennsylvania in Norristown failed to approve credentialing of their abortionists. Planned Parenthood Far Northeast Center failed two inspections on December 21, 2022 and August 4, 2023 with numerous violations including an uncertified nurse, a lack of clinical privileges for anesthesia, and an unsanitary environment – “no measures in place to prevent cross contamination between the clinical sink and the area utilized for decontamination and processing of surgical instruments.”

To make matters worse, not one of these failed inspections resulted in fines or penalties. In fact, for the Allentown Women’s Center, it’s only reported that the staff were “verbally educated and reprimanded” after the incident where a woman almost died. Since 2012, abortion facilities in Pennsylvania have failed 175 state inspections, including 112 health inspections and 63 building safety inspections. Those failed inspections found a total of 582 infractions. Whatever your opinion on abortion, both sides of that debate can all agree that these abortion operators’ actions show they value profits over women’s health. 

The twelve legislators calling for the repeal of safety standards for abortion clinics want Pennsylvanians to ignore the current problems in the abortion industry because of the nature of what they do. In the Gosnell Grand Jury Report, the jury found that, 

“[T]he Pennsylvania Department of Health abruptly decided, for political reasons, to stop inspecting abortion clinics at all. The politics in question were not anti-abortion, but pro. With the change of administration from Governor Casey to Governor Ridge, officials concluded that inspections would be ‘putting a barrier up to women’ seeking abortions. Better to leave clinics to do as they pleased, even though, as Gosnell proved, that meant both women and babies would pay.” 

Pennsylvania should not move backwards. It appears that the abortion industry and their proponents in the state legislature are trading safety in the name of access. It’s a bad deal for everyone, especially women. Pennsylvania women deserve better.

Thomas J. Shaheen is the Vice President for Policy and Emily Kreps is the Legal Assistant for Pennsylvania Family Institute.

3 thoughts on “Thomas J. Shaheen: Modern-day ‘back alley’ abortions”

  1. Exactly so. The hostility toward health and safety at these facilities just causes to make my belief that abortion clinics are not about women’s health, but rather advancing the practice of eugenics as envisioned by Margarete Sanger. Just look where the facilities are located, not in leafy, peaceful suburban enclaves.

  2. George, you nailed it. The facilities target the uneducated and poor, and minorities, mostly. One could be tempted to be inhumane and think: “Well, then that it is good they aren’t bringing those babies to full term.” It is also easy to mock pro-life arguments: they are not there to help after the baby is born. What has happened is eviler than that. Massive “sex education” programs were put into schools, claiming that this was urgently needed to reduce a “crisis” of teenage pregnancies and venereal diseases. But teenage pregnancies and venereal diseases had both been going down for years. The rate of infection for gonorrhea, for example, declined every year from 1950 through 1959, and the rate of syphilis infection was, by 1960, less than half of what it had been in 1950. Both trends reversed and skyrocketed after “sex education” became pervasive. Sex education taught everyone to have no shame and pursue selfish pleasure with zero consequences. The United States rejected God and we have been brainwashed by Communists.
    1/3 of the people think they are Democrats, but they are costal elites and government beneficiaries (captured), 1/3 want everyone to be nice and cling to traditional media traditions (Quaker-ish), and 1/3 have had enough. Same ratios as 1776: 1/3 Tories, 1/3 just wanted peace, and 1/3 Whigs. Read this article and you can see where the United States started having problems intentionally programmed into the culture:

  3. There is a great rap song “Facts Are Racist (feat. Bryson Gray)” by Christopher Townsend. He is better known as Topher, an independent American rapper, songwriter, conservative political activist, and entrepreneur from Mississippi. Topher spent six years in the U.S. Air Force, where he was a cryptologic language analyst.
    People who think of abortion as a women’s rights issue, or an issue to be avoided to win elections, they are naive at best. My guess is they probably do not think of themselves as racists. Yet, more than 60% of those who seek abortions are people of color, according to the Guttmacher Institute, a reproductive health research and policy group.

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