Below you can read my complete op-ed in response to Patriot-News (Harrisburg, PA) editorial and a link to a shorter version that was published as a letter to the editor on 6/17/11.

Abortion laws are part of Job No. 1: Protect Health and Safety

In your editorial (“What about jobs?” The Patriot-News, June 9, 2011), you decry the actions of the state legislature, namely the Republicans, for recent passage of bills addressing abortion.

It’s worth noting first that the bills are really about patient safety and taxpayer protection; not about “Republican” or “Democrat” issues. That’s why the House passed its abortion clinic bill by a strong bi-partisan vote of 148-43 and Senate bills passed with the votes of senators from both parties.

Yes, job creation should remain a top issue for lawmakers in this Commonwealth but in honoring the Constitution of our State and Nation, it cannot and should not be the only issue they address.

In fact, on the same days that the House and Senate voted on abortion-related bills, more than 40 other bills were addressed each day, including action in multiple committee meetings.

During the 2009-2010 Session alone, more than 2,000 bills were introduced and 181 became law. The topics ranged from codes on the sale of cigarettes to real estate regulation to education reform to prison codes and environmental protections.

Where are the complaints about “wasting time, energy and effort” when the legislature tackles these other issues?

The Patriot-News applauded the passage of puppy mill legislation (June 2008) while our state budget languished. A year later, an editorial favored a statewide indoor smoking ban which was debated for weeks in both chambers during Spring budget season. Were these bills about jobs or the state budget?

S.B. 3 preserves Pennsylvania’s policy of not using taxpayer money to fund abortions, by keeping abortion out of a state insurance scheme mandated by the controversial federal health care law. With 67 percent of Americans saying that tax dollars shouldn’t pay for abortions (Quinnipiac University poll), we should be grateful that our Senators took action.

Now our lawmakers are taking long overdue action with H.B. 574 and S.B.732 to regulate abortion clinics because of the discovery of serious deficiencies and governmental neglect in Kermit Gosnell’s “House of Horrors” clinic in West Philadelphia. Have we already forgotten Gosnell and the Grand Jury report? Have we forgotten the women and countless number of babies that were mangled and butchered at his hands?

This same “we have bigger fish to fry” attitude about abortion from our politicians and bureaucrats is what allowed the atrocities of Gosnell and his clinic to happen in the first place.

The Patriot News understands the legislative process well enough to know that this week’s action on abortion-related bills in no way delays the passage of the budget.

You could say that these bills are about jobs, namely Job No. 1: Protecting the health and safety of our citizens. And the worst action our lawmakers could take would be the decision to take no action.

— Thomas J. Shaheen is vice president for policy of the Pennsylvania Family Institute.