In a testament to the power of political pressure, the Virginia Board of Health reversed itself and voted 13 to 2 to impose medically unnecessary regulations on abortion providers.
The regulations, pushed for by radical anti-choice attorney general Ken Cuccinelli, are designed to drive providers out of business and out of the state. They require new requirements that include making clinics comply with the same architectural standards for new hospitals.
Under the original bill that created these regulations, the state’s Board of Health had 280 days to create and enact these new TRAP regulations because Cuccinelli and Gov. Bob McDonnell (R) pushed the legislation through the state’s “emergency” status for passing legislation. The effect of such a procedural move is to shorten the length of time for the board and the public to review and comment on the regulations.
In short, they knew the regulations wouldn’t be popular and they wanted to cut out as much of the democratic process as possible in order to get them passed.
But when the Board of Health refused to cooperate with the McDonnell and Cuccinelli coup, choosing instead to exempt existing reproductive health providers from the new regulations it seemed for a moment that cooler heads had prevailed. Unfortunately that was not the case.
“We are stunned by [the] vote, and extremely disappointed in the thirteen Board of Health members who decided to put political ideology before evidence-based scientific fact,” said Tarina Keene, Executive Director of NARAL Pro-Choice Virginia. “It is unprecedented to force existing health centers to comply with building regulations intended for new construction, and the Board acted well within its authority in voting to amend these regulations in June,” Keene said. “We will continue to stand for women’s health, despite this administration’s attempt to silence us. Virginians are sick of playing politics with women’s lives.”
The regulations now must be approved by Gov. McDonnell after another round of public comments, but given how hard McDonnell pushed for these regulations there’s little reason to think he wont promptly approve the board’s vote. That means that thanks to the board’s vote several clinics across the state will be threatened with closure by the state in the coming months unless they can undertake the time and expense necessary to comply with the law.
Photo from Gage Skidmore via flickr.