November 24, 2023
HARRISBURG — All Pennsylvania medical providers will soon be required to get consent before conducting any pelvic, rectal, or prostate exams on patients under anesthesia.
While some regional medical institutions have banned the practice, there was no statewide ban to prevent physicians or medical students from conducting invasive pelvic exams, even when they were not medically necessary. The once-common practice has widely declined in recent years due to national attention on the issue, but Rep. Elizabeth Fiedler (D., Philadelphia) said it was still important for Pennsylvania to have a statewide policy because it has many teaching hospitals.
Pennsylvania’s legislature passed the bill last week and joined more than 21 states that have already banned pelvic exams without informed consent. Gov. Josh Shapiro signed the bill Tuesday, and it will take effect Jan. 19 — 60 days after the signing.
“It’s what I consider a ‘Duh’ piece of legislation, where people are like, ‘How is this not already law?’ ” said Rep. Liz Hanbidge (D., Montgomery), who authored the bill with Fiedler.
Fiedler and Hanbidge said they hope the new law will protect patients and ensure trust between a patient and doctor. They’ve introduced the legislation each session since 2019, and worked to gain unanimous support for the bill’s passage in the House and Senate. The lawmakers said they also believe the law will improve women’s health care, because the practice often historically affected unconscious women.
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