The Virginia Department of Health released its proposed permanent regulations for women’s health clinics on Friday. Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell signed the Targeted Regulations on Abortion Providers (TRAP) law last year and emergency regulations have been in effect since January 1, even though there was no declared public health emergency. The law requires that first-trimester abortion clinics undergo architectural renovations so that hallways are a specific width and ceilings are a specific height. Also under the regulations, state authorities can enter a clinic to inspect at any time without notice 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 have condemned the law as an attack on abortion and many clinics could be forced to close because they cannot afford to meet the new requirements. In a statement (PDF), NARAL VA wrote, “we are dismayed that VDH [Virginia Department of Health] once again ignored sound science and drafted regulations that are not only inappropriate for the provision of first-trimester abortion care, but are designed to severely limit access to safe, legal abortion care in the Commonwealth. These proposed permanent regulations, which are virtually identical to the widely-criticized temporary regulations, reflect a willful disregard for the outpouring of public concern in recent months about the impact of these extreme and burdensome regulations on women’s health care.”
The VA Board of Health will vote on the permanent regulations on June 15. Usually, regulatory changes approved by the Board of Health take nearly 2 years to implement. However, the General Assembly voted last year to mandate that the rules be written no more than 280 days after the governor signed the bill into law, causing state officials to rush to adopt the regulations.
AP 6/3/12; Washington Post 6/2/12; NARAL VA Press Release 6/1/12; Feminist Daily Newswire 1/3/12