The Virginia Board of Health voted last Monday to repeal regulations creating barriers to women accessing services at abortion clinics.
In an 11-4 ruling, the board implemented more than a dozen regulatory changes, but the most significant amendment was to the infrastructure standards.
“(The regulations) were regarded as being discriminatory to prevent abortion clinics from opening in Virginia,” said Board of Health member Mary Margaret Whipple. “Since (regulations were implemented) clinic’s numbers have gone from 20 to 14.”
According to Whipple, some of the regulations included design and architecture of buildings, where clinics were located, specific requirements for width of hallways, room design and specific placement of hand washing stations and water fountains.
In June, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled on Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt and decided certain regulations in Texas placed an “undue burden” on women trying to access abortion services.
This precedent came into play when deciding on the regulatory standards in Virginia, according to Joseph Hilbert, the director of governmental and regulatory affairs at the Virginia Department of Health.
“During the meeting the board heard from legal counsel office of Attorney General, who briefed them on the recent Supreme Court decision,” Hilbert said.
Hilbert said the final amendments to the regulations will not take effect until the completion of a review of the Office of Attorney General, Department of Planning and Budget, Secretary of Health and Human Resources and the Governor.
“If the Governor approves the final amendment, it will be published in the VA Register of Regulations,” Hilbert said. “They have a 30 day adoption period until they take effect.”
The regulations initially took effect in 2011 when Republican Gov. Bob McDonnell signed them into law.
“I do not believe these regulations should have been rescinded,” said John Rackoski, vice president of communications for the College Republicans at VCU. “I do not believe they were unreasonable given the findings of several studies that have identified deficient hygienic practices. In numerous clinics in several states, including Virginia, they have lead to the deaths of a number of women.”
In contrast, members of the VCU Planned Parenthood Generation Action club attended the VA Board of Health meeting and spoke during the public comment period.
“If abortion facilities have to adhere to regulations other outpatient facilities should too,” said VCU Planned Parenthood club president Sara Thornton. “It’s important that these regulations were repealed because they weren’t medically necessary and proposed an obstacle for women. This is a huge win for Virginia.”
Hannah Parker, Contributing Writer