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Virginia’s New Anti-Choice Restrictions Will Force 40-Year-Old Abortion Clinic To Close This Weekend

By Tara Culp-Ressler  

"Virginia’s New Anti-Choice Restrictions Will Force 40-Year-Old Abortion Clinic To Close This Weekend"

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Last week, Virginia’s Board of Health voted to finalize unnecessary regulations that will force many of the state’s abortion clinics to shut down. Those new restrictions — which are known as the Targeted Regulation of Abortion Providers, or TRAP laws — are already having their intended effect. Hillcrest Clinic, which opened to the public just nine months after the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision legalized abortion services, will be closing its doors this weekend.

The state officials pushing for the new abortion regulations claim they will help ensure women’s safety. But in reality, TRAP laws simply overburden abortion clinics by requiring them to make complicated, costly updates to their facilities that don’t actually have anything to do with the quality of the health care they provide. Virginia’s clinics have been figuring out what lies in store for them ever since the state’s TRAP law first passed in 2011, and Hillcrest Clinic determined that it can’t afford to make the updates required under the new regulations:

For four decades, Hillcrest Clinic — South Hampton Roads’ first medical facility devoted to providing legal abortions — defied efforts to close its doors. That run ends Saturday.

Virginia’s new licensing standards for abortion clinics, coupled with a drop in demand for pregnancy terminations, have driven the clinic out of business. [...]

Architects estimated Hillcrest would need $500,000 in renovations — including changing ventilation and temperature controls — to meet the standards, [Hillcrest's director Suzette Caton] said.

In addition to the expensive renovations, the cost of services and doctors has been increasing. And Hillcrest’s director notes that the clinic is making less revenue than it used to because, thanks to expanded access to effective contraceptive services, it has been performing fewer abortion procedures.

That hardly means that clinics like Hillcrest are becoming obsolete, however. Caton pointed out the drop in abortions is actually a direct result of the abortion providers who have been able to counsel women about all aspects of their reproductive care. “They’re the counselors and medical staff that took the time to help women find a method of birth control that was going to work for them,” Caton explained.

Nevertheless, abortion opponents across the country aren’t pursuing the kinds of tactics — such as expanding programs for at-risk youth, increasing sex education resources, or ensuring funding for family planning clinics — that could actually help reduce the abortion rate. Instead, they’re focused on advancing TRAP laws that will force abortion clinics like Hillcrest to close their doors. Women’s health advocates point out that this type of anti-abortion strategy is especially effective because, rather than inciting lawsuits by banning the procedure itself, it’s an indirect attack on reproductive rights that often flies under the radar.

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