When the Virginia legislature voted to classify abortion clinics as hospitals instead of doctors’ offices, organizations suddenly faced onerous new restrictions establishing standards about hallway widths and how many parking spots the clinics must have. Emergency regulations went into place on January 1, and now the Virginia Health Department has released its final proposed regulations. On June 15, the state Board of Health will vote on these new rules, which critics argue will force some of the Virginia’s 23 abortion providers out of business.
GOP Gov. Bob McDonnell’s office said in December that the “common-sense regulations will help ensure that this procedure takes place in facilities that are modern, safe, and well-regulated.” Women’s health advocates say it will add unnecessary architectural and building code regulations. The new requirements are expected to be similar to what has been in place since January:
The proposed regulations are similar to the emergency regulations, which are considered some of the toughest in the country. They regulate the size of exam rooms and hallways and the number of parking spaces; and address requirements for inspections, medical procedures and record-keeping.
Erik Bodin, of the department’s licensure and certification office, said some changes were made to conform to recent amendments to the informed-consent abortion law and to ensure that clinic employees who are legally mandated to report suspected child abuse comply with those requirements.
The Virginia Coalition to Protect Women is encouraging people to sign peititions against the new rules and to contact McDonnell and voice their opposition to the new rules.
The consistently anti-abortion governor has said that the law is “in the interest of health,” but the Virginia ACLU’s Katherine Greenier said the proposed regulations are politically driven and “medically irrelevant.” Depending on how the board votes on the proposed requirements, a legal challenge could be likely against the rules that would effectively limit women’s health care options.