The Virginia Board of Health is reviewing the state’s “Regulations for Licensure of Abortion Facilities” and asking for broad public feedback concerning how people feel about Virginia’s TRAP laws, or targeted regulations on abortion providers.
The Feminist Majority Foundation and other women’s rights organizations are asking Virginians to submit a comment urging the Board of Health to rely on evidence-based medical best practices and reject discriminatory, ideologically-driven restrictions on access to abortion and other healthcare.
The burdensome TRAP laws being reviewed are part of a 2011 state law that require all clinics that perform more than five abortions a month to widen their hallways and doorways, expand their parking lots, construct awnings at their entrances, and more, forcing clinics to either pay unnecessary costs or close. A case challenging these Virginia restrictions is currently moving through the federal courts.
While state legislators are responsible for passing TRAP laws, the Board of Health is charged with carrying out those laws. In October 2016, the Board of Health approved amendments to stop enforcing these regulations so as to be in compliance with the Supreme Court decision in Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt. In that case, the Court ruled that Texas’s ambulatory surgical center requirements, similar to Virginia’s, were unconstitutional after lawyers for the state could prove no medical benefits and the provisions constituted an undue burden on women seeking an abortion. While the Virginia laws are still on the books, they are not currently enforced on pre-existing clinics.
Prior to the Board’s 2016 amendments, several Virginia reproductive health centers were forced to close or stop providing abortion care, cutting off access to critically needed health services. The closure of reproductive health centers has a disproportionate impact on low-income women and only adds to the structural barriers that many women face when trying to access preventative care, including birth control, cancers screenings, and testing and treatment for STIs.
Before receiving an abortion, Virginia women are required to endure mandated counseling, a 24 hour waiting period, and an ultra-sound where they are asked if they would like to view an image of the fetus.
Virginia also has 58 fake health clinics, or crisis pregnancy centers, which often have no doctors on staff but rather are used to deceive, manipulate, and shame pregnant women seeking information about abortion.
Media Resources: Feminist Newswire 8/11/17; Rewire 10/1/18;