Republicans probe state abortion regs, citing Kermit Gosnell

House GOP lawmakers have launched a major probe of state-level abortion regulation in the wake of the murder trial of Philadelphia abortion provider Kermit Gosnell. 


Leaders on the Energy and Commerce Committee wrote to state health agencies Wednesday requesting a comprehensive record of regulators' dealings with abortion clinics since 2008.

Lawmakers said Gosnell's trial, in which he's accused of running a squalid abortion clinic and killing several infants born alive after failed procedures, raises "troubling questions" about state oversight of abortion providers. 

The committee wonders "whether state departments of health are aware, or even conducting appropriate monitoring, of these facilities," lawmakers wrote. 

Gosnell's trial has sparked fresh conversations on Capitol  Hill about abortion rights, particularly in the final stages of pregnancy.

While abortion clinics are generally regulated at the state level, Republicans have called for greater scrutiny of the facilities and the providers that run them.

In their letter to state health officials, the GOP lawmakers asked for hundreds of documents explaining rules that govern abortion procedures, providers, clinics and the reporting of adverse health events related to abortion. 

The members also asked state health officials to report every clinic under their jurisdiction that has been licensed, inspected, investigated or disciplined in the last five years. The letters set a deadline of May 22 — just two weeks — for response.

Rep. Joe Pitts (R-Pa.), who leads the Energy and Commerce subcommittee on Health, stated that Gosnell was able to "operate dangerously and illegally for years ... because oversight of such clinics was virtually non-existent."

"Other states should be aware of what happened in Pennsylvania and should take strong measures to protect women's health," he said.

Court records reveal that the Pennsylvania Department of Health scarcely inspected Gosnell's clinic for two decades, permitting an environment where cats roamed freely and fetal remains where kept in jars and bags around the office.

Supporters of abortion rights say excessive abortion restrictions lower the number of reputable providers and allow rogues like Gosnell to flourish.

"There are always going to be bad actors in any profession," Dr. Anne Davis, an abortion provider, recently told The Associated Press. "The harder it gets to access abortion, the wider the door for bad actors."

Wednesday's letters were signed by Pitts, Energy and Commerce Chairman Fred Upton (R-Mich.), Vice Chairwoman Marsha BlackburnMarsha BlackburnKoch-backed group urges Senate to oppose 'bailouts' of states in new ads The Hill's Coronavirus Report: Teachers' union President Randi Weingarten calls Trump administration plan to reopen schools 'a train wreck'; US surpasses 3 million COVID-19 cases The Hill's Coronavirus Report: DC's Bowser says protesters and nation were 'assaulted' in front of Lafayette Square last month; Brazil's Bolsonaro, noted virus skeptic, tests positive for COVID-19 MORE (R-Tenn.), Oversight subcommittee Chairman Tim Murphy (R-Pa.) and Reps. Joe Barton (R-Texas) and Michael BurgessMichael Clifton BurgessTechnical difficulties mar several remote House hearings The Hill's Coronavirus Report: Moniz says U.S. needs energy jobs coalition and Manchin says Congress is pushing Wall Street solutions that don't work for Main Street; Burr to step aside The Hill's 12:30 Report: House returns to DC for coronavirus relief MORE (R-Texas). 

Separately on Wednesday, Rep. Stephen FincherStephen Lee FincherTrump announces, endorses ambassador to Japan's Tennessee Senate bid Lamar Alexander's exit marks end of an era in evolving Tennessee Tensions on immigration erupt in the House GOP MORE (R-Tenn.) introduced a resolution calling for state investigations of "abusive, unsanitary and illegal abortion practices." The measure has two co-sponsors.

The jury is in its eighth day of deliberations in the Gosnell case.