Speak Out for Women, sponsored by the Virginia Coalition for Women’s Health, attracted hundreds yesterday in Richmond with to protest draft regulations for the state’s abortion providers. The Virginia Board of Health will vote today on ideologically-driven unnecessary regulations requiring abortion clinics to meet hospital-like standards and building requirements. If passed in their present form, the regulations will likely be the most extreme facility requirements for first-trimester abortion providers in the nation. The unnecessary structural changes mandated by newly passed state legislation and signed into law by Republican Governor Bob McDonell and implemented by the regulations will likely result in the closing of several of the 21 clinics in the state.  Newly passed regulations in Kansas closed the doors on all but one provider. Not one clinic in Virginia can currently meet the proposed regulations. These reproductive health clinics are gateways to affordable health care for low-income women and most perform cancer and STI screenings, as well as other health care services.

Notable speakers at yesterday’s bipartisan Speak Out included Democratic Virginia House Delegate Charnielle Herring, chair of the Virginia Legislature’s Reproductive Health Caucus and former Republican Delegate Katherine Waddell. Veteran abortion rights activist and founder and director of Patient Services at Falls Church Healthcare Center Rosemary Codding, health educator at Falls Church Healthcare Center Emily Creveling and Capitol Women’s Clinic manager Shelly Abrams spoke on behalf of their practices. Virginia NOW president Diana Egozcue, director of communications Marj Singer of the Religious Coalition for Choice also spoke. Corrina Beal, Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) recent graduate and Feminist Majority Foundation Associate addressed the rally and served as MC for the Speak Out.

Delegate Herring told the crowd, “We’re here to call Governor McDonnell out.”

Clinic Manager Shelly Abrams testified, “I’ve seen anthrax threats, a bombing, and witnessed threats to my doctors and staff, but never have I been so worried about the future of abortion access in our country.”

VCU young Democrats President Vickie Yeroiane said, “I cry for my peers in rural Virginia.”

Feminist Majority Foundation Associate Corrina Beall added, “We know injustice when we see it; we know sexism when we see it; we know that when so many Virginians are out of work, when so many Virginians have no medical insurance, the people of Virginia need more access to low-cost, affordable health care, now more than ever, and not less.”

VCU student Natasha Yingling spoke of her experience as a patient. “Two years ago I had three lumps in my breast that needed to be screened. I had tender lymph nodes under my arm, and I had no health insurance to get a mammogram or an ultrasound. I found a clinic.”

Feminist Majority Foundation 9/15/11

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