In a victory for Virginia women, the Virginia Board of Health yesterday voted 13-2 to amend politically motivated, medically unnecessary TRAP regulations which have already caused women’s clinics in the state to close and threatened to shutter several more.
Dozens of women’s health supporters, including the Feminist Majority Foundation, lined up at as early as 6 AM to make public comments against Virginia TRAP (Targeted Regulations against Abortion Providers) regulations. Several medical professionals, legal experts, and impacted women testified, calling on the Board to approve an October 2014 recommendation made by Virginia Health Commissioner Dr. Marissa Levine to amend the restrictive regulations, which she called “arbitrary” and “marked by political interference.”
“This is a truly important first step towards ensuring that safe, trusted women’s health centers can remain open and continue serving their patients with the critical medical care they need,” said Tarina Keene, executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Virginia and co-chair of the Virginia Coalition to Protect Women’s Health, which helped organize supporters for the hearing.
The Virginia Board of Health approved the existing regulations in 2013 under pressure from anti-choice, former Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli. The rules require clinics to have the same physical architectural standards as newly built hospitals. The Board of Health had initially exempted existing clinics from the rules, but reversed itself after Cuccinelli, who unsuccessfully ran for Virginia governor in 2013, threatened Board members with the denial of state legal counsel.
The current, un-amended regulations will require women’s clinics to spend millions of dollars on changes to their facilities, such as the addition of parking, replacing existing ceilings, and adding showers to all facilities for staff members. None of these costly changes improve patient care or safety. The regulations, however, jeopardize women’s health care, especially for low-income women and people of color, by forcing clinics to close.
“While we are all committed to ensuring patient health and safety, these regulations do not do that,” stressed Keene. “That’s why hundreds of medical experts – including Dr. Karen Remley, the former Virginia Health Commissioner, and the Virginia Chapter of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists – oppose these restrictions. We have to ask ourselves, who is most competent to set standards for women’s health care centers — medical experts who are on the frontlines of patient care every day, or politicians that are determined to cut off access to safe, legal abortion?”
This summer, the Virginia Department of Health received more than 10,000 comments, including comments submitted by the Feminist Majority Foundation, in support of amending or repealing the TRAP regulations.
The Board of Health will begin the amendment process next year.
Media Resources: NARAL Pro-Choice Virginia 12/4/14; Feminist Newswire 10/2/14, 4/12/13, 9/14/12