Women’s Health Advocates Fight Back Against Virginia’s New Abortion Clinic Restrictions

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"Women’s Health Advocates Fight Back Against Virginia’s New Abortion Clinic Restrictions"

A protest against TRAP laws at Virginia Board of Health meeting last year. (Credit: Feminist Campus)

In April, Virginia’s Board of Health approved new regulations intended to force abortion clinics to shut down. It’s already working: later that month, a 40-year-old abortion clinic in the state announced that it would be closing its doors. But now, women’s health advocates are fighting back.

The Falls Church Healthcare Center has filed the first lawsuit challenging the burdensome clinic restrictions. In its suit, the clinic points out that there’s no good reason to hold abortion providers to medically unnecessary standards that will force them to make expensive renovations, like widening their buildings’ doorways. The Falls Church organization says that the new, tighter regulations will require it to spend $2 million on renovating its century-old clinic building.

“We are committed to providing women’s healthcare to the under-served population in northern Virginia,” Rosemary Codding, the center’s director, told the Times Dispatch. “They’re taking away the rights of these women, and I have to stand up for them.”

The organization’s lawsuit also alleges that Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli (R), who is currently Virginia’s GOP candidate for governor, fed the state’s supposedly nonpartisan health board false information about the regulations. Falls Church Healthcare Center believes that the anti-choice lawmaker told board members that they didn’t have the legal authority to exempt existing clinics from the new law, even though that’s not the case. Other reports have suggested that Cuccinelli essentially threatened board members into approving the new rules.

Leveling burdensome regulations on abortion providers, with the ultimate goal of forcing clinics to shut down when they’re unable to comply, is a popular anti-choice tactic to indirectly attack women’s reproductive rights. Medical professionals agree that these type of laws — known as the Targeted Regulation of Abortion Providers, or TRAP — aren’t actually necessary to ensure women’s safety. “We’ve been re-inspected twice, and we have a license to operate through 2014,” Codding said, pointing out that the Falls Church clinic is already providing safe care to women and doesn’t need to make costly updates to its facility.

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, a national doctors’ group representing thousands of OB-GYNs across the country, recently issued an official statement criticizing TRAP laws for “imposing a political agenda on medical practice.”

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