Pa. delays abortion restrictions

February 17, 1994|By New York Times News Service

Amid widespread confusion about just how Pennsylvania's Abortion Control Act should operate, a state judge in Harrisburg, Pa., yesterday delayed the law's enforcement.

Judge Dante Pellegrini of the Commonwealth Court said the law should not go into effect until 10 days after the state publishes information about abortion and fetal development, as the law requires.

The measure, adopted in 1989, was enforced for the first time on Tuesday, the day after a U.S. district judge lifted a five-year ban and a week after U.S. Supreme Court Justice David H. Souter rejected an appeal by abortion providers.

Kathryn Kolbert, the lawyer who won the delay from Judge Pellegrini, said that at least 190 women at 10 clinics did not receive abortions Tuesday because of the confusion in carrying out the law.

Shortly before 4 p.m. yesterday, after the temporary injunction was issued, Planned Parenthood offices called the women to tell them they could now have abortions.

The Pennsylvania law's "informed consent" provision requires that every woman seeking an abortion must receive counseling on alternatives to abortion -- and be offered a booklet including color pictures of fetal development -- and then wait 24 hours before the abortion is performed.

Unmarried girls under 18 are required to get one parent's consent for an abortion or, if a parent is not available, the approval of a county judge in what is known as a judicial bypass.

But many abortion clinics have not yet received the required counseling materials. And courts in most counties yesterday were not yet prepared to schedule judicial hearings for girls under 18.

"We had a staff member making seven, eight, nine calls to Family Court asking about how to get judicial bypass hearings, and what they said was, 'What's a judicial bypass hearing?' " said Joan Coombs, executive director of Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pennsylvania.

The state attorney general's office said the counseling materials required under the law had been mailed out.

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