Va. Board of Health votes to scrap restrictive abortion clinic regulations

Posted at 2:53 PM, Oct 25, 2016
and last updated 2016-10-25 14:53:19-04

HENRICO, Va. – Dozens of people gathered as early as 2 a.m. Monday outside a Henrico hotel, vying for a chance to speak at the State Board of Health meeting about abortion clinic regulations. The day stretched out, going past 5 p.m., before a final vote to rescind the restrictions which Senate Bill 924 placed on abortion clinics across the state.

Governor Terry McAuliffe’s appointed board members have been systematically attempting to remove the restrictions placed on abortion clinics which required women's health centers to meet new regulations created by the Virginia Department of Health.

Pro-life advocates believe the facilities need to look more like hospitals, which introduces a level of staffing and expenses not previously required by abortion clinics. Pro-choice advocates want these facilities to continue to look like an outpatient surgical facility, where the standard operating procedure would be to transport someone to the hospital if a complication arose.

Many said that women's health suffered as a result of the restrictions, with the governor pledging to "be a brick wall for the women of Virginia against any attempts to infringe on their reproductive rights."

The original 20-minute comment period Monday was expanded to 90 minutes so that advocates on both sides could make passionate appeals to the board.

After 8 hours of meeting, the board voted 11-4 to rescind the restrictions.

Back in June, the Supreme Court of the United States struck down provisions of a Texas law similar to Virginia's--which included mandates that abortion clinics operate on the same standards as hospitals. Virginia became the first state to take proactive steps to comply with the decision in Whole Woman’s Health v Hellerstedt without court action.

“This afternoon’s vote signals a victory and the end of a protracted regulatory fight over the future of women’s health in Virginia," said Governor McAuliffe. "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."

“We applaud the Board of Health for putting women's health ahead of politics and adopting amendments to the regulations which remove many of the onerous, politically motivated restrictions on providers," said Cianti Stewart-Reid, executive director of Planned Parenthood Advocates of Virginia. "For 100 years, Planned Parenthood has provided high quality care to women, men and young people; and, we will always fight for access to the full range of reproductive care including safe and legal abortion.”