Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Texas Abortion Battle Could Play Out in Pennsylvania

By Tom Joseph, Public News Service-PA
HARRISBURG, Pa. - A debate raging over abortion rights in Texas could be unfolding in Pennsylvania as well.

One aspect of Texas' abortion law just restored by a federal appeals court requires that clinic doctors have admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles of their clinic. Sari Stevens, executive director of Planned Parenthood Pennsylvania Advocates, said the measure may be perceived as addressing quality medical care, but that isn't the case.

"A physician having staff privileges at a hospital has nothing to do with them being a licensed medical provider," she said. "It has no designation of making them a quality medical provider. It is an employment agreement, more than anything else."

Safety isn't the primary reason that doctors acquire staff privileges at hospitals, Stevens said, adding that it's more likely to be a business arrangement.

"Hospitals are businesses," she said, "and, if they have a physician who does not bring in patients to the hospital, they are of no good to the hospital, and those privileges are no good to the hospital."

Stevens said the federal court decision on the Texas bill shut down a third of that state's women's health clinics in a single day.

"It accomplished its goal," she said, "and that is the same goal that the Pennsylvania lawmakers who are pushing this bill have here."

State Reps. Bryan Cutler, R-Quarryville, and Bryan Barbin, D-Johnstown, have been seeking Senate co-sponsors for a bill putting the same restrictions on doctors in Pennsylvania. However, Stevens said all facilities in Pennsylvania where a pregnancy might be terminated already have emergency transfer agreements with hospitals, making such a law unnecessary.

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