|Action||Amend the Regulation after Assessment and Receipt of Public Comment|
|Comment Period||Ends 10/31/2018|
Virginia's Restrictive Abortion Rules
Most Virginians, and probably even members of this Board, do not fully understand how restrictive Virginia abortion laws and regulations are when compared to those in other states. When Roe v. Wade was decided, the legislature took no action to bring Virginia into compliance with the constitution until it was ordered to do so by a court. And, when it did so, the legislature passed the most restrictive law it could, continuing to make all abortions criminal class 4 felonies unless performed in strict compliance with the law that mandated that any abortion after 12 weeks be done in a full service hospital (most states allow abortions up to 24 weeks to be performed in doctor offices and/or clinics). In addition, the legislature passed a very expansive conscience clause that allows individual medical service providers and facilities to decline to offer abortion services and protected those who refuse service from liability for damages even if their refusal causes actual harm to a patient. Against this punitive backdrop, the legislature has continued efforts through the years to regulate abortion out of existence and to burden the right to these important medical services by imposing special, onerous and unnecessary informed consent, ultrasound requirements and waiting periods, and, then, making any doctor's office or other facility offering 5 or more abortions a month to patients in the first 12 weeks of pregnancy meet the requirements of outpatient surgical centers, even if all the provider wanted to do was dispense pills for a medication abortion in the privacy of their office. This Board then initially adopted rules that failed to "grandfather" in existing facilities, and imposed rules governing the construction and design of facilities that had no medical benefit to patients (e.g., requiring hallways wide enough for surgical gurneys even where only medical abortions are provided) in the expectation that some medical providers would be forced to stop providing abortions because they couldn't afford the substantial investments required to comply with the unnecessary rules. While some positive changes have been made in the rules since they were first adopted, it is time for this Board to accept that even the amended rules contravene the constitutional standards established by the US Supreme Court in the Whole Women's Health case. It is time for this Board to repeal the restrictive abortion rules outright and to become advocates for decriminalizing abortions, the patients who seek them, and the doctors and facilities that provide them.