Agencies | Governor
Virginia Regulatory Town Hall
Agency
Virginia Department of Health
Board
State Board of Health
chapter
Regulations for Licensure of Abortion Facilities [12 VAC 5 ‑ 412]
Action Regulations for Licensure of Abortion Facilities
Stage Proposed
Comment Period Ends 3/29/2013
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3/29/13  6:00 pm
Commenter: Tarina Keene, NARAL Pro-Choice Virginia Foundation

Grandfather Existing Women's Health Centers from Unnecessary Construction Requirements
 

My name is Tarina Keene. I am the executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Virginia. We represent our more than 20,000 member-activists and the majority view of Virginians -  the hospital-like construction requirements being placed on existing doctors’ offices that perform first trimester abortion are overly burdensome, unnecessary and put Virginia women’s health and lives at risk.

Currently, the state’s 20 women’s healthcare centers that provide first trimester abortion have all been inspected by the Virginia Department of Health. All 20 have received their licenses – unconditionally – from VDH. It is important to note that “unconditional” in the eyes of VDH means that there are no safety concerns and no health concerns for patients. Some clinics have even been subjected to unannounced inspections since receiving their licenses less than six months later. Once again, all have received a clean bill of health.

Over the past two years, these 20 women’s health care centers subjected to the emergency and proposed permanent regulations at issue have done everything they have been asked -- including meeting hundreds of pages of new regulations not required of any other outpatient facility in the Commonwealth This has taken a toll on their finances, their physical and emotional well-being and strained their staff and resources. Nonetheless, these medical providers have nearly done the impossible - especially in such a limited timeframe - and met every requirement imposed upon them. Even more important, they have managed to do this all while maintaining and protecting their core  mission – to provide safe, affordable and accessible health care for their patients.

However, there is one more hurdle to jump: the costly and unnecessary construction renovations. The proposed architectural standards are not only medically unnecessary for first trimester abortion, but have absolutely nothing to do with patient safety. They were carefully and unscrupulously devised to shutter the majority of these health centers.

Once these regulations are made permanent, these health centers have about a year to reinvent themselves into small hospitals.  Some of these doctors’ offices have been operating for nearly four decades and are in buildings that are even older. Many of these medical offices are also in rented spaces. Never has the Commonwealth required existing facilities to retroactively meet new regulatory construction guidelines.  With cost estimates ranging from hundreds of thousands to millions of dollars, this provision alone threatens to close the majority of these 20 health centers in the next year. These medical facilities must be grandfathered into this provision.

During this process, the advice of several medical experts from around the state was ignored - all of whom agreed that existing facilities should be grandfathered into the construction requirements. Unfortunately, the regulatory process was tainted by the political interference and legal misguidance of Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, who is leading an ideological and targeted crusade against the Commonwealth’s abortion providers. The attorney general insists the Board must reject any attempt to amend the regulations to grandfather these clinics because the law mandates it. Nothing could be further from the truth.

The people of Virginia demand comprehensive health care and a fair approach to regulation – not politically-motivated requirements designed to restrict abortion access and close exemplary medical providers. A new statewide poll, conducted with sound methodology from a nationally reputable polling firm, proves that the majority of Virginians - 58% - oppose these harmful and medically-unnecessary regulations. What’s more, this opposition cuts across party lines, and a broad coalition of Republicans, Democrats, and Independents are united in their opposition to TRAP.

On behalf of the majority of Virginians, as well as the millions of women across Virginia who use these medical providers for their basic and reproductive healthcare, NARAL Pro-Choice Virginia asks the Board of Health to put medicine before politics and ideology and vote to exempt existing abortion providers from forced and unnecessary hospital construction requirements and help ensure safe and accessible healthcare for the women of Virginia.