The regulations come out of legislation the Virginia State Assembly passed in 2011 to regulate women’s health clinics that provide abortion like outpatient surgical centers, which would include expensive building alterations like widening hallways and doorways. The final regulations now go to anti-choice Republicans Gov. Robert F. McDonnell and Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli for approval. Once approved, clinics will have two years to comply, according to the Richmond Times-Dispatch.
Initially the Board of Health exempted most existing abortion clinics from the new law, but Cuccinelli sent the regulations back, threatening the board that the state department of justice wouldn’t defend the board in any future lawsuits regarding the regulations and the board members would be personally responsible for legal costs.
Cianti Stewart-Reid, executive director for Planned Parenthood Advocates for Virginia, warned the new regulations would likely shut down some of the state’s 20 abortion clinics and called the new rules “onerous and unnecessary architectural requirements.”
Katherine Greenier, director of the Patricia M. Arnold Women’s Rights Project at the ACLU of Virginia, testified before the vote, “These burdensome construction requirements have no relation to the safety of the services that women’s health centers provide. … Clearly, the aim here is not to protect women’s health but to shut down clinics that provide essential health services, including abortion.”
These regulations are part of an anti-choice strategy is known as the targeted regulation of abortion providers, or TRAP laws, which aim to burden abortion clinic with such expensive an onerous regulations that they’ll be forced to closed due to the cost. Alabama and Indiana have each passed bills similar to Virginia’s in one legislative chamber so far in 2013.
Update, 5:15 p.m. EST: National Abortion Federation president and CEO Vicki Saporta criticized the board’s decision in a statement on Friday, saying it had caved to political pressure despite a lack of evidence that regulations of this type helped women’s health.
“Abortion has an outstanding safety record: fewer than 0.3% of abortion patients experience a complication that requires hospitalization, and more than 90% of all abortions in the United States are provided in outpatient facilities,” Saporta said in her statement. “Abortion providers in Virginia are already highly regulated and comply with a variety of strict federal and state regulations. These unnecessary building requirements have been denounced by the Virginia medical community and the majority of Virginia residents.”
Kay Steiger is the managing editor of Raw Story. Her contributions have appeared in The American Prospect, The Atlantic, Campus Progress, The Guardian, In These Times, Jezebel, Religion Dispatches, RH Reality Check, and others. You can follow her on Twitter @kaysteiger.
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