- Associated Press - Friday, April 17, 2015

HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) - Some Republican lawmakers who oppose abortion rights registered “serious concerns” Friday over Gov. Tom Wolf’s nomination of Pedro Cortes as secretary of state, criticizing his handling of an abortion clinic that authorities dubbed a “house of horrors.”

In a letter to the Democratic governor, the 49 legislators charged that Cortes didn’t do enough to stop the horrific practices at a former Philadelphia abortion clinic during his previous tenure as secretary of state in Gov. Ed Rendell’s administration from 2003 to 2010.

The former clinic owner, Dr. Kermit Gosnell, is serving life in prison for killing babies born alive during illegal abortions. He pleaded guilty to illegally distributing painkillers and was convicted of involuntary manslaughter in the death of a woman who died of an overdose following a botched abortion.

The case prompted the Legislature to toughen building and staffing regulations over abortion clinics in 2011.

Some state employees in the departments of Health and State were fired or resigned as a result of the Gosnell investigation, but Cortes was not charged with wrongdoing.

The lawmakers said Cortes “is ultimately responsible for any accomplishments or failures which occur under his watch.”

“It is deeply troubling to us that you would nominate someone for such an important position as secretary of the commonwealth despite his deep ties to this national nightmare,” the letter says.

Wolf spokesman Jeffrey Sheridan said his boss stands behind Cortes’ nomination, which must be confirmed by a majority vote of the Senate.

“The attorneys who failed to perform their duties and report these acts are no longer employed by the Department of State,” Sheridan said. “To suggest that (Cortes) is at all responsible for the actions of Gosnell is offensive.”

The secretary of state oversees more than two dozen professional boards, including the state Board of Medicine, but has other responsibilities including serving as the state official in charge of elections.

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