Virginia Board of Health Removes Surgical Center Building Requirements for Abortion Providers

Yesterday the Virginia Board of Health voted 11-to-4 to remove the unconstitutional outpatient surgical center building requirements imposed on clinics that perform abortions.

The Board of Health was responsible for carrying out the 2011 law requiring clinics to widen their hallways and doorways, expand their parking lots, and construct awnings at the entrances, forcing clinics to either pay unnecessary costs or close.

In 2013 the Board voted to only impose those burdensome requirements on new clinics, but then-Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli responded by saying he would not defend the Board if they were sued over that decision and threatened that Board members could be held personally legally responsible, causing them to reverse their vote.

The vote makes Virginia the first state to comply with the recent Supreme Court ruling in Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt, which classified the admitting privilege requirement and surgical center requirement as an undue burden on abortion providers. The Virginia Board of Health had already voted in 2015 to do away with the state’s required transfer agreements between abortion clinics and hospitals.

The 5-3 ruling in the Whole Woman’s Health case was the most important Supreme Court decision on abortion since Planned Parenthood v. Casey (1992), the ruling that established the “undue burden” standard.  Since 2010, dozens of states have passed hundreds of targeted restrictions on abortion providers, closing clinics across the country.

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