The Virginia Department of Health recently issued regulations regarding the commonwealth’s abortion clinics. These regulations were a result of the General Assembly’s bill, passed in February of this year. These regulations would require abortion clinics to meet the same standards as hospitals. This bill is said to be the most controversial of the General Assembly’s session. The proposed regulations have received mostly negative media coverage throughout the country. The media is mainly focusing on the “restrictive” code requirements instead of the actual safety of patients, which should be of concern to both pro-choice and pro-life advocates.
As of now, first-trimester abortion clinics in Virginia are treated as outpatient clinics, just like plastic and oral surgery facilities. These other clinics and facilities perform much less invasive surgeries than abortions, and therefore should be treated differently than abortion clinics. The Family Foundation in Virginia has been advocating for these regulations for over a decade because the clinics have been under-regulated in the state, according to the organization’s director. Currently, the foundation is looking into two medical malpractice cases involving abortion procedures in these clinics. I believe these regulations are reasonable and should have been implemented decades ago, since the abortion clinic industry is worth $1 billion.
The proposed regulations, which were categorized as “emergency” to speed up their formulation, were drafted by the VDH after the bill was passed and signed by Gov. Bob McDonnell. They now have to be adopted by the Board of Health at its Sept. 15 meeting and signed into law by McDonnell by the end of the year. The meeting is open to the public, and citizens are welcome to comment and share their opinions on the new regulations. The VDH has been considering comments and suggestions since the bill was passed in February.
According to the VDH, an abortion clinic is defined as a “facility that performs five or more first-trimester abortions per month to meet the same standards for staffing, security, construction and maintenance as hospitals.” Some of these so-called “restrictive requirements,” which are rarely, if at all, mentioned in the media, include that physicians must remain on the premises until a patient is discharged, staff members certified to perform cardio-pulmonary resuscitation should be available for emergency care, and sanitary conditions have to be improved.
As you can see, most of these regulations are meant to improve the safety and health of patients. After reading the regulations, I came to the code restrictions section, which was only a small portion of the new requirements. As a woman, I do not see how these regulations are a bad thing. If women choose to use these services, they should be able to feel reassured knowing the regulations on a facility are up to date and the physicians have to comply with the same regulations as hospitals.
Pro-choice advocates have argued that these regulations will cause 17 of the 21 Virginia abortion facilities to close. This will obviously change how and when women will be able to receive the help they need, but it could also increase the number of alternatives to abortion, such as adoption. McDonnell has stated that these regulations are not meant to close down clinics, but to improve the health and care of women. Although McDonnell is pro-life, I feel he respects the law and realizes these clinics need to be up to date to perform such procedures. After the horrific discovery of the Philadelphia abortion clinic where a “doctor” is currently charged with eight murders from partial birth abortion, pro-choice advocates should encourage these regulations.
It is important, especially for women, to understand how these regulations could affect them. And in the end, I hope they support regulations that improve the welfare of patients’ health and the overall wellness of women throughout Virginia.