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Virginia Gets a Failing Grade
Virginia's many restrictions on reproductive rights and lack of pro-choice policies earn an "F" in NARAL Pro-Choice America's annual rating of states' laws.


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Targeted Regulations on Abortion Providers (TRAP)

LATEST UPDATE: On Friday, September 14, the Virginia Board of Health voted 13-2 to subject existing women's health centers to burdensome and medically unnecessary construction regulations. This was a stunning reversal from June, when the Board voted 7-4 to amend drafted regulations on abortion providers to "grandfather-in” existing facilities and exempt them from forced hospital-style construction requirements. 

Why the switch? On July 16, 2012, Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli's office announced that he would not "certify" the Board’s amended version of the regulations. Using a strained interpretation of the law (since rejected by top legal experts), Cuccinelli claimed that the Board of Health had overstepped its authority in amending the draft regulation. In reality, Cuccinelli's refusal was a calculated moved intended to further his anti-choice crusade. Although the Attorney General does not legally have "veto power" over the Board of Health, his refusal sent the proposal back to the Board for a September 14 vote. 

Over the last three months, Cuccinelli has been using legal fiction, intimidation tactics, and thinly veiled threats to strong-arm the Board into changing its decision. On Friday September 14, five members caved to pressure and switched their vote to reflect Cuccinelli's political agenda. Only Jim Edmonson and Anna Jeng voted to once again "grandfather in" existing women's centers. 

NARAL Pro-Choice Virginia and our partners in the Virginia Coalition to Protect Women's Health are continuing to urge Virginia's administration to put evidence-based medicine before political ideology. You can get involved! Learn more at the Virginia Coalition to Protect Women's Health website and take action.

Virginia's Targeted Regulations on Abortion Providers: The Problem

Anti-choice state politicians in Virginia want to outlaw abortion, regardless of the woman's situation. They will stop at nothing to make it harder for women to access abortion.

In March 2011, Governor McDonnell signed Senate Bill 924 into law. This law classifies women's health centers in Virginia as a category of hospital, meaning they are now subject to new regulations.

These politically-motivated laws, called "TRAP laws," (Targeted Regulations of Abortion Providers), single out doctors that provide abortion care. TRAP laws have nothing to do with promoting the safe delivery of healthcare for women and everything to do with restricting Virginians' access to safe, legal abortion.

While most new regulations go through a lengthy initial process, the governor imposed an "emergency" process for these new rules. That means the chance for deliberation and public input in the creation of regulations was severely limited. The Department of Health released a draft of regulations at the end of August 2011 that were the strictest, most medically-irrelevant restrictions on abortion providers in any state in the nation. These regulations notably include burdensome hospital-style architectural requirements that would cost clinics hundreds of thousands of dollars in renovation costs to attempt to meet, as well as rules that put patient confidentiality and the safety of health center staff at risk.

On September 15, 2011 despite compelling pro-choice testimony about the negative impact these regulations would have, the state Board of Health accepted the draft and moved the regulations forward

On December 29, 2011, Governor McDonnell signed the emergency regulations as drafted into law. While the emergency regulations begin to be implemented, the permanent regulatory process is now underway. Learn more about the problems with the emergency regulations adopted by the Board of Health and signed by the governor.

In 2012: After the temporary new rules for women's health centers went in to effect on January 1, 2012, The Virginia Department of Health once again ignored sound science and drafted proposed permanent regulations designed to limit access to safe, legal abortion services. These onerous proposed permanent regulations went well beyond any existing regulations seen in other states. 

The proposed permanent regulations, which were virtually identical to the widely-criticized temporary regulations, reflect a willful disregard for the outpouring of public concern and the recommendations of medical professionals made in recent months about the impact of these extreme and burdensome regulations on women’s health care.

On June 15, the Virginia Board of Health voted to amend a key provision of the draft permanent regulations – the amendment means that existing women’s health care centers that provide safe, legal first-trimester abortion care will be "grandfathered in,” rather than being subjected to onerous and unnecessary forced building requirements.

On September 14, the Board of Health voted to accept the draft permanent regulations without a grandfather amendment. This decision subjects existing women's health centers to onerous and medically unnecessary construction regulations, and could lead to the closure of 15-20 Virginia Abortion clinics. 

Our Solution

NARAL Pro-Choice Virginia has joined with abortion providers and other women's health advocates through theVirginia Coalition to Protect Women's Health to work to protect access to safe, legal abortion in Virginia. Our goal to make sure the permanent regulations on Virginia's abortion providers will be based on medicine and women's health, not politics and anti-choice ideology, and that they won't lead to a severe loss of abortion access for Virginia women. 

Throughout the implementation of the emergency regulations and the permanent regulatory process, we'll need pro-choice activists like you to help us constantly educate Virginians about the regulatory process and the impact that new medically-unnecessary regulations on abortion providers could have on women's access to healthcare.

Here's some of what you can do to help:

  • Educate your friends, family, classmates and colleagues about this issue, utilizing your blogs and social networks to spread the word far and wide. You can learn more about the regulations and see news coverage of the issue at the Coalition website.

For the latest news on this issue, you can read our blog posts on the topic. And of course, you can follow us onTwitter and Facebook for updates and ways to get involved.
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