Three new editorials are condemning Virginia’s controversial draft regulations requiring state abortion providers to meet the physical plant requirements of hospitals. The guidelines — the result of legislation Gov. Bob McDonnell (R-VA) signed earlier this year — were formulated through an “emergency” process that bypassed the normal public notice procedures and require existing abortion clinics to meet the standards of brand new construction.
No justification has been given for such fast-track treatment. Abortions are among the safest of medical procedures. Virginia’s Department of Health does not keep track of complications associated with the 25,000 or so abortions performed in the commonwealth each year. But the Guttmacher Institute, a nonprofit think tank that focuses on reproductive health and supports legal abortion, reports that less than one-half of 1 percent of all abortions performed in the country result in complications and require follow-up medical treatment. The abortion clinics targeted by the Virginia legislation perform only first trimester abortions — the safest of all procedures.
Supporters’ claims that legislation requiring the new regulations was animated by concern for patient safety aren’t fooling anyone. If that were the motive, the law would have been aimed at raising the level of care at every outpatient surgical center across the state rather than simply those that perform five or more first-trimester abortions each month. [...]
Supporters of these regulations could’ve shown they were serious about the health and care of women dealing with unexpected pregnancies by working just as hard for an adequate support system. They could’ve pushed for more funding for prenatal care for low-income expectant mothers or greater public awareness campaigns about the effects of unintended pregnancies. They could’ve demanded more resources and more social programs, including greater access to childcare assistance, to show single mothers and teenage parents that they needn’t choose between ending an unintended pregnancy or resigning themselves to a life of poverty.
If there’s one thing Virginia’s leading Republicans agree on, it’s government regulation. They’re against it. “Keep taxes and regulation and litigation low,” Gov. Bob McDonnell said in 2009 when he was asked how to make Virginia business-friendly. [...] The same goes for state Sen. Ryan McDougle. When he was sworn in for his second term in 2008, McDougle promised, among other things, to ensure that “you are not burdened with intrusive new government regulations.”
But a commitment to the principle of laissez-faire evidently goes only so far. Because this year McDougle sponsored the legislation requiring the Department of Health to write tough new regulations for abortion clinics. The board has now done so, and will vote on them next Thursday. McDonnell signed McDougle’s measure into law — apparently without a qualm and perhaps even enthusiastically.
The Virginia Board of Health will vote on the draft regulations — which may close as many as 17 of the state’s 22 abortion clinics — on Sept. 15, and if approved, they will go into effect on Dec. 31.