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Virginia Coalition to Protect Women's Health: "Virginia Doctors Applaud Board of Health’s Vote to Amend Politically Motivated Abortion Restrictions"

Medical professionals “deeply relieved” that existing health centers will be governed by science and medicine

Richmond, VA - This evening, the Virginia Board of Health voted to approve amendments to medically-inappropriate and politically motivated restrictions currently regulating the Commonwealth’s women’s health centers that provide abortion. Dozens of doctors, medical professionals, and legal experts -- many of whom who had waited for over 6 hours to testify -- urged the Board of Health to amend the restrictions in order to reflect the medical reality of safe and legal first-trimester abortion and to ensure women’s health centers can remain open and accessible to the thousands of Virginia women.

After the 9-6 vote, medical professionals applauded the Board’s decision as a critical step in the right direction to roll back this ideological, politically motivated attack on women’s health care access. Today’s vote means that Virginia’s existing first-trimester abortion providers will no longer be subject to restrictions pushed by abortion opponents and designed to end women’s access to abortion by shutting down quality, compassionate health centers.

Dr. Kris Kennedy, a board certified obstetrician and gynecologist from Virginia Beach, said, "Every woman should be able to access the care she needs, when she needs it, without political interference. I’m pleased that today the Board of Health listened to medical experts and took an important first step to roll back ideological, politically motivated restrictions designed to end women’s access to safe and legal abortion.”

Dr. Serina Floyd, a board certified obstetrician and gynecologist from Alexandria, VA, said, "I’m thrilled the Board of Health listened to doctors and patients and agreed existing women’s health centers shouldn’t be required to meet hospital-style architectural requirements. These changes mean Virginia’s existing women’s health centers no longer face the threat of imminent closure. However, thousands of Virginia women still have to travel hundreds of miles to access affordable, quality reproductive care. I’m committed to continuing to work with the Commissioner of Health to end of the application of medically inappropriate construction guidelines to new women’s health centers to make sure we can expand access to health care.”

"It’s not enough to simply slow the attacks on women’s health” added Dr. Jessica DeMay, a board certified maternal fetal medicine specialist. "While I am deeply relieved that Virginia’s currently-existing women’s health centers will no longer be subject to restrictions designed specifically to shut them down, we still have more work to do to ensure that new women’s health centers can open in Virginia and provide critical medical care to the thousands of women and families who need it -- without inappropriate or politically-motivated barriers.”

Dr. Koziol, a urologist from the Richmond area, said, "No politician belongs in the doctor’s office. As medical professionals, we’ve said since the beginning of this process that women’s health centers should not be subject to medically unnecessary regulations. Today is a great first step to make sure the regulations reflect science, not politics. But, we have more work to do repeal the application of medically inappropriate construction standards to new women’s health centers to ensure every woman can access the care she needs, when she needs it.”

All 18 of Virginia’s existing women’s health centers have been inspected and licensed by the Department of Health under the existing, medically unnecessary regulations. A large majority of the health centers have also applied for, and received, one-year waivers from the Department from the medically inappropriate building requirements designed to shut them down. The amendments approved today provide a recourse for these health centers to stay open after the expiration of these waivers.

Today’s vote by the Board of Health is only one step in a lengthy regulatory process. The revised regulations are subject to additional rounds of administrative review and public comment before they are finalized. The soonest they would likely go into effect is early 2016.

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Contacts:
Alena Yarmosky, NARAL Pro-Choice Virginia (alena@naralva.org, 240-595-2972)
Anna Scholl, ProgressVA (540-460-1269, anna@progressva.org)
Kathy Greenier, ACLU of Virginia (kgreenier@acluva.org 804-523-2147)
 
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