The Virginia Board of Health voted on Friday to finalize restrictions of the state’s abortion clinics, or permanent targeted regulations of abortion providers (TRAP), and in a 7 to 4 vote the board passed an amendment to exempt existing clinics from building regulations that would have required substantial renovations. The law will still require that new first-trimester abortion clinics are built to meet hospital construction standards. Also under the regulations, state authorities, without notice, can enter any clinic, existing or new, to examine patient medical records, gather a list of current patients, and interview patients on site, potentially violating both patient and provider privacy.
Women’s health advocates commended the amendment, but warned that the new regulations are still dangerous to women. Anna Scholl, executive director of ProgressVA, said, “The Board failed to address dangerous provisions that threaten patient privacy and safety. Allowing government bureaucrats to compile lists of women seeking an abortion and access to their medical records is nothing more than a thinly veiled attempt to shame and intimidate women out of seeking safe and legal medical care. Far from ‘protecting’ women, these ideologically-driven regulations are a serious threat to patient privacy and safety.”
The regulations, including the amendment that exempts existing clinics from the building renovations, will now be reviewed by Governor Bob McDonnell and Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, both staunch abortion opponents. The regulations will then be open for a 2-month comment period, followed by a final vote by the Board of Health.
Washington Post 6/15/12; AP 6/15/12; Huffington Post 6/15/12; Feminist Daily Newswire 6/15/12