Well, the reprieve for Virginia abortion clinics didn’t last long.
Earlier this summer, the state’s Board of Health voted to exempt existing clinics from satisfying new and expensive building requirements. Their decision was in response to a 2011 bill that required abortion clinics to be regulated as hospitals. According to pro-choice advocates, those requirements – which included such non-medical specifications as hallway width and drinking fountain installation – were so restrictive that up to 17 of the state’s 21 clinics could be forced out of business.
Anti-choice Virginia attorney general Ken Cuccinelli refused to certify the board’s version of the law. In addition, he contacted board members, “suggesting that if they did not heed his advice against grandfathering, his office would not defend them in any resulting litigation, and that they could be personally on the hook for legal bills.”
Also this summer, anti-choice Virginia governor Bob McDonnell appointed a new member to the Board of Health: John Seeds, the vice-chairman of Virginia OB/GYNS for Life, an anti-choice organization.
So perhaps it’s not surprising that earlier today, the Board of Health reversed its own decision and voted 13-2 to adopt the new regulations without exempting existing clinics.
It’s still unclear how forcing these clinics to adhere to hospital-style building codes will actually improve patient care and safety. Equally murky is why, if these requirements are so vital, outpatient clinics that perform other medical services aren’t being held to the same standards.
In fact, the only thing that seems clear is that yet again, politics are being put ahead of women’s safety and well-being. If clinics are indeed unable to afford the costly renovations necessary to comply with these new regulations and have to shut down, women will have even fewer accessible and affordable options for receiving the safe health care they deserve.
Sarah's first book, Generation Roe: Inside the Future of the Pro-Choice Movement, will be out March 2013. For more information, follow her on Twitter @saraherdreich, or check out saraherdreich.com.