The Virginia Board of Health voted 11–2 on Friday “to require abortion clinics to meet strict, hospital-style building codes” that many women’s health advocates say will put abortion providers out of business and prevent women from accessing essential medical services.
Pending final approval by conservative state Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli (R) and Gov. Bob McDonnell (R) — which is almost definite — Virginia will join other GOP-led states such as North Dakota, Mississippi, and Alabama in imposing stringent regulations meant to arbitrarily shut down abortion clinics.
The regulations — part of a nationwide anti-choice campaign to adopt so-called Targeted Regulation of Abortion Providers, or TRAP, laws — would require clinics that provide abortions to meet the same standards as outpatient hospital facilities, forcing many clinics to choose between expensive and medically unnecessary renovations such as widening halls and doorways or shutting down entirely. While the health board originally wished to grandfather existing clinics from having to comply with the new rules, Cuccinelli threatened to make its members foot the bill for any litigation that resulted from the law.
Friday’s vote represents the latest skirmish in an ongoing conservative war on abortion clinics. In the past three months, states have proposed an astonishing 694 provisions restricting or rolling back women’s reproductive rights. Efforts to shutter local abortion clinics disproportionately impact low-income women and significantly increase the incidence unintended pregnancies.