Virginia Board of Health nixes stricter standards for abortion clinics

RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — In the past three years since the state board of health approved hospital-like regulations for abortion clinics across Virginia, a third of those clinics have shut down. But the board on Monday amended those regulations and removed those standards which pro-life advocates argue were put in place to protect women. They say clinics across the state have had hundreds of violations that have been found in light of stricter standards.

“That includes bloody equipment, blood on the tables, drugs being transported between clinics with no oversight. Doctors that have been caught without their medical licenses. None of this is even being discussed,” said Victoria Cobb with The Family Foundation.

Cobb says the move to amend regulations was purely political.

“When you have a governor who’s taken millions of dollars from the abortion industry when he campaigned, what you see is that he’s bought this board,” Cobb said.

During a 60-day public comment period, 5,795 individuals commented. 5,210 were in support of the amendments, while 585 were opposed. On Monday, dozens had one more chance to voice their opinions.

The vote comes months after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that similar regulations in Texas were medically unnecessary, unconstitutional and limited a woman’s right to an abortion.

“They are not apples to apples. Texas still has strong safety standards. There are only a couple of things that were struck down with that decision and those things are not in Virginia’s standards,” Cobb said.

“The use of the whole woman’s health decision is really powerful in the hearing today,” added Amy Hagstrom Miller, CEO of Whole Women’s Health and the plaintiff in that Supreme Court Case.

Hagstrom Miller says Texas’ regulations aren’t any different than Virginia’s.

“In Virginia, the things like parking spaces, and covered awnings and janitors closets have nothing to do with improving women’s safety,” Miller said.

She says the current regulations are medically unnecessary.

“These do nothing to prevent unplanned pregnancy, they’re just restricting women’s access to obtaining good care in their communities,” said Hagstrom Miller.

While the board of health approved those amendments, the process is far from over. Amendments will still have to be reviewed by the attorney general, other state officials and eventually the governor before becoming effective.

Gov. Terry McAuliffe on Monday issued a statement on the vote:

This afternoon’s vote signals a victory and the end of a protracted regulatory fight over the future of women’s health in Virginia. I want to thank the Virginia Board of Health for working to repeal onerous regulations designed solely to reduce or outright remove access to essential reproductive health services for women across the Commonwealth.

This vote demonstrates to the rest of the United States and the world that Virginia is a community where people can live, find employment, and start a family without politicians interfering with decisions that should be made by women and their doctors. When I ran for office I promised to be a brick wall for the women of Virginia against any attempts to infringe on their reproductive rights. I’m happy to say that my administration has and will continue to keep that promise.”