The proposed new regulations for clinics that offer abortion services in Virginia may be the harshest in the country. The requirements are based on Virginia’s regulations for outpatient facilities and would require a costly remodel of most of the state’s 22 clinics where abortions are performed.
Tarina Keen, executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Virginia, told Mother Jones that the new regulations, introduced by the state’s Department of Health Friday, were a direct attack on pro-choice ideals and abortion services.
“It would be challenging for the majority of our facilities to continue offering first-trimester care,” Keene said. “These are designed to really cease first-trimester abortion services in the Commonwealth of Virginia.
“There’s no doubt in my mind that this is an attack on Roe. You can ban abortion by making it inaccessible.”
Under the new regulations, all hallways must be at least five feet wide, while pre-op rooms must be at least 80 square feet and operating rooms at least 250 square feet.
In February, the Virginia state legislature passed a bill that classified abortion clinics as hospitals, thus subjecting them to the more stringent requirements that hospitals face, albeit without the significant financial power large hospitals have.
Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell (R) said on a radio show Tuesday morning that he had not yet read the new requirements, but said that “it’s in the interest of health.”
McDonnell is anti-abortion, but said that the regulations are not a ploy to ban abortion. He did acknowledge the potential consequences of the rules.
“There will be some increased costs, and many of these providers obviously are for-profit entities and they will factor that into their costs,” he said.
Paulette McElwain, president and CEO of the Virginia League of Planned Parenthood, told the Huffington Post that none of her five clinics would meet requirements. The cost to comply would be significant.
“We recently spent $4.6 million on renovations for the building I’m in, and we still don’t meet these requirements,” McElwain said. “I think it’s highly likely that most facilities in Virginia that provide abortions wont be able to meet them either.”
Virginia’s Republican-majority Board of Health is scheduled to vote on the regulations September 15, after a period of public comment. The rules would go into effect December 31.