Board of Health make health a political issue

Chris Suarez
Guest Contributor

In an 11-2 vote last week, the Virginia Board of Health once again made women’s health a political issue by approving a new set of regulations that could shut down some of the 20 abortion clinics here in the commonwealth.

This sounds like common sense, right? We should hold abortion clinics accountable for the health of their patients and make sure they provide safe procedures for women, right?

These regulations don’t further the mission. The Health Department claims the regulations are being passed in order to ensure the safety of patients who visit clinics, but in reality, they go far above what other similar outpatient clinics might have.

The regulations require that any clinic that has more than five first-trimester abortions be considered as a hospital structurally, meaning that all 20 of the clinics will have to meet new building requirements. The renovations would have to include 5-foot wide public hallways, new ventilation systems, covered front entrances and drinking fountains in waiting rooms.

Most of these clinics do not have the funds necessary to make the renovations needed to be in compliance with the law and will be unable to attain them by the deadline.

Back in June, the Health Department attempted to ‘grandfather’ current abortion clinics out of abiding by the regulations. If ‘grandfathered,’ all the old clinics would have to still adhere to certain regulations, but would not have to meet the building requirements, which are similar to the regulations required of hospital

Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli made this a partisan issue when, during the Health Department’s consideration of grandfathering the clinics, he threatened the department with lawsuits and denial of state-funded legal counsel if they went through with the measure.

The regulations, called TRAP laws (Target Regulation of Abortion Providers) by pro-abortion advocates, will cause a number of Virginia abortion clinics to close. They unfairly target reproductive clinics and abortion providers, forcing them to make unnecessarily costly renovations. These costs are made even harder by legislation and bureaucracy that makes public funding of women’s health clinics difficult to receive.

While the board approved the regulations and any mention of ‘grandfathering’ the clinics was put down during last Friday’s hearing by most members of the board, Gov. Bob McDonnell still has to approve them as well. There is a 30-day period of public comment on the regulations, but it’s very unlikely that will sway McDonnell’s opinion.

Part of the move for these new regulations stem from an investigation last September where the Health Department found several health violations in a number of the abortion clinics in the state. The violations included un-sanitized instruments, untrained employees in clinics, dried blood on examination tables and unauthorized consent forms for underage patients.

The findings of the Health Department are alarming; Roe v. Wade says that every woman seeking an abortion is entitled to a safe and private procedure and clearly these violations break that part of the law.

There clearly is reason to be concerned about the violations in several abortion clinics, but these new regulations don’t address the health violations and primarily focus on the physical aspects of reproductive clinics.

Virginia conservatives are taking advantage the previous investigations to push forth legislation that makes seeking an abortion difficult.

For them, it’s all a matter of politics and not a genuine concern about public health.

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