The Virginia Department of Health will post draft regulations for abortion clinics by 5pm this evening, which will impose unnecessary and onerous regulations on abortion providers and restrict women’s access to reproductive health services. In March, Republican Governor Bob McDonnell signed a bill requiring that clinics that perform first trimester abortions meet the Board of Health regulations on hospitals and comply with the regulations for ambulatory surgery centers, which are far more stringent than the current regulations on clinics and physician’s offices. The Virginia Senate and House voted to pass the bill in February.
The Virginia Board of Health is scheduled to vote on the regulations on September 15. Governor McDonnell, an opponent of abortion rights, has appointed eight of the fifteen-member Board of Health. Elizabeth Nash, public policy analyst at the Guttmacher Institute, stated, “These really have nothing to do with patients and everything to do with making it harder to provide abortion services.”
The new regulations may cause as many as 17 of the state’s 21 women’s health clinics that perform abortions and provide necessary women’s reproductive health services, such as STI testing, cancer screenings, and family planning, to shut down as a result of the cost to implement the required changes. Reproductive rights groups, including the Feminist Majority Foundation, NARAL Pro-Choice America, the Center for Reproductive Rights, the National Organization for Women, and the American Civil Liberties Union are opposing the law.