State Representative Brendan Boyle (D – 170) is one of dozens who helped to pass Act 122, a law that has resulted in the closure of five women’s clinics so far, since its enactment on December 22, 2011. This wasn’t a shocking move for Boyle to make; he has been a legislative supporter of the pro-life lobby all of his political career, but what is shocking is that his anti-choice record has gone largely unnoticed in the 13th district congressional race. He is the only pro-life candidate in a race in one of the most left-leaning districts in the country, thanks to gerrymandering.
In 2004, Democrats for Life of America listed Representative Boyle as a “Pro-Life All Star” on their website, a title which today is reserved for conservative democrats like Senator Joe Manchin. (Manchin is well known for being the only Democrat to vote against cloture of the National Defense Authorization Act in 2011, which included a repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell.) Representative Boyle’s name is no longer listed on their website, but it is not because he has opposed anti-choice measures in the Pennsylvania state legislature. The DFLA’s benchmark for a true pro-life democrat is just that extreme.
In April 2011, Brendan Boyle was a prime sponsor of HB 1314, a bill that is similar in architecture to the bill State Senator Wendy Davis famously filibustered, launching her into the Texas gubernatorial race. HB 1314 required all physicians performing abortions in Pennsylvania to receive surgical privileges from a hospital within 30 miles of their clinic. In other states where this law has been on the books, clinicians have had trouble getting privileges, due to the conservative activist role that some hospital administrators have taken to block their medical privileges.
In accordance with this Pennsylvania bill, those who were found performing an abortion without such privileges would be fined and charged with a third degree misdemeanor, risking their ability to continue to practice medicine. The bill was so extreme that it did not even make it out of committee, a huge reason why many in the general public do not know of Boyle’s advocacy for the bill.
Then in December 2011, of course, Representative Boyle voted in favor of SB 732, which was passed as Act 122. Its legislative supporters assured the public that it wouldn’t close any clinics, but instead, make them safer for those using them. It included provisions that mandated all clinics as “ambulatory surgical centers”. This basically means that expensive renovations would be required of all health centers, regardless of any history of safety issues or structural flaws in a facility. It’s what reproductive choice advocates call TRAP laws, or the targeted regulation of abortion providers. Its sole purpose is to make it impossible for clinics to remain open under the weight of pointless red tape and renovation costs.
No medical associations, medical professionals, or reproductive choice advocates supported the bill, all whom are charged with lobbying for the safest possible outcomes for patients, but plenty of anti-choice legislators seeking to eliminate abortion access all together helped to make this bill law. They used the media frenzy over the Gosnell murder trial to misinform the public about clinics, and it worked. Since Act 122’s enactment, five clinics have closed.
This law has returned Pennsylvania to the days before the Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision, in which abortions still occurred, but the safety of women seeking them was not valued. The law hasn’t returned Pennsylvania to this time just figuratively; there is now actually a publicly known case that indicates this. As Rachel Maddow reported a few weeks ago, a Pennsylvania mother and nurse is now facing up to fifteen years in prison for aiding her then 16 year old daughter in purchasing the abortion pill illegally on the internet.
Jennifer Whalen purchased the pill after her daughter told her of the pregnancy back in 2012, right after clinics began to close, thanks to Act 122. In Pennsylvania, minors must receive consent from their parents before they can terminate a pregnancy, so up until this point, Whelan and her daughter had been following the letter of the law. They looked for a clinic, and when they found that the closest available facility was over 75 miles away, Whalen, as a nurse, did what thousands of women had done in this situation decades in the past – she found other methods.
A few weeks later, she took her daughter to the hospital, and the profuse bleeding that ensued indicated that she had suffered from an incomplete abortion, something that never happens at legally recognized clinics, thanks to the advancement of medical science and ultrasound equipment. It did, however, happen in Gosnell’s “house of horrors”, so the very scenario that legislators like Boyle and others claimed to be preventing was replicated, thanks to their votes.
Does Brendan Boyle want to keep women safe no matter what their medical choices, or does he want to take away their choices? Either way, the Democrats for Life Association thinks he is an “All-Star”. Hopefully that will quell any of his guilt over what he has done to Pennsylvanians like the Whelans.