In a victory for Virginia women, Governor Terry McAuliffe directed the state Board of Health yesterday to review TRAP regulations adopted last year that would require clinics providing abortion care to meet the same construction standards for new hospitals.

“I am very concerned that the extreme and punitive regulations that were adopted last year jeopardize the ability of most women’s health centers to keep their doors open and place in jeopardy the health and reproductive rights of Virginia women,” the governor told reporters. “There is a perception across the commonwealth that the Board of Health was pressured into approving rules that impede the ability of women to access preventive services and even sometimes lifesaving care,” he continued. “Let me be clear — I share those concerns.”

The Virginia TRAP laws – targeted regulation of abortion providers - have been heavily criticized for imposing unnecessary, onerous burdens on women’s health clinics. Examples of the changes required by the regulations include making additional parking available, replacing existing ceilings, and adding showers to all facilities for staff members. Critics say that the regulations are not based on medical practice and are an attempt to shut off access to abortion care by closing clinics that cannot afford to comply. The Virginia regulations have already caused at least two clinics in the state to close. 

The Virginia Board of Health had initially exempted existing clinics from the new TRAP rules. But after pressure from then-Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, the board reversed itself. Cuccinelli, who unsuccessfully ran for Virginia governor in 2013, had threatened Board of Health members with the denial of state legal counsel if they did not change their decision on the exemption. The Falls Church Healthcare Center has sued the Board of Health for disregarding an executive order by then-Governor Bob McDonnell requiring state agencies to consider how regulations impact small businesses and to make alternative options available. The case is still pending.

The TRAP regulations will remain in effect pending the state Board of Health’s review. Clinics have until the end of June to comply.

Media Resources: Richmond Times Dispatch 5/12/14; Feminist Newswire 10/14/13, 6/14/13, 3/13/13, 9/14/12

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