The Virginia Board of Health offered a rare bright spot lately in the war on reproductive rights, voting to improve a draft of permanent regulations governing health care centers providing five or more fist-trimester abortions per year.
In a 7-4 vote the Board decided to amend the proposed regulations to “grandfather in” existing women’s health care centers so they are not required to meet new architectural standards required under the TRAP law. “We are very pleased that the Board of Health chose to follow the advice provided by medical experts. This is a vote on the side of women’s health and well-being in Virginia,” said Katherine Greenier, Director of the ACLU of Virginia’s Patricia M. Arnold Women’s Rights Project. “Abortion care has been safely and effectively provided by many health care centers in the state for years and it is reassuring to know these existing providers will be able to continue delivering their services throughout the Commonwealth.”
The requirements threatened to put existing clinics out of business as the cost to modify facilities could reach millions of dollars, yet those requirements bear no correlation to the delivery of safe and affective health care to women.
Unfortunately though new facilities will still have to meet the requirements, which means it is very unlikely any new clinics will be opening in the state of Virginia anytime soon. And other controversial measures that expose clinics and patients to unannounced raids by the government did pass as well. “We are, however, disappointed the Board of Health did not amend the proposed regulations to provide stronger safeguards for patient and provider safety and confidentiality,” added Greenier. “Patients have been targets for harassment outside of women’s health centers and there is a long history of anti-choice activists seeking patient information in order to deter women from obtaining vital reproductive health care. During the public comment period, we ask members of the public to demand women’s privacy rights, and we will urge Gov. McDonnell to amend the regulations to provide such protections.”
The fight is not over. The regulations are now open for public comment where they can be amended again prior to final adoption. Contact Gov. McDonnelll and demand Virginia respect the privacy of the 1 in 3 women in that state who will need abortion care at sometime during her life.
Photo from infowidget via flickr.