Board of Health votes to deregulate abortion clinics

After a lengthy meeting, the Virginia Board of Health voted to weaken health and public safety regulations on abortion clinics Oct 24. 

 

“This is basic common sense, whether it's a hotel or a shopping mall. Maybe I’m crazy but if the building is on fire,” how is that safe for women?

Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D) praised the decision in a press release as “a victory and the end of a protracted regulatory fight over the future of women’s health in Virginia.”

 

Even before the daylong meeting began, members of the public lined up at 6 a.m. in order to comment on the proceedings. Michael Lewis of the Virginia Catholic Conference, the public policy arm of Virginia's bishops, decried the escalation of the proposed amendments.

 

“When this amendment process began, the proposed amendments focused on six areas of the regulations,” he said. “We are now up to 18 — well beyond the scope of the originally proposed regulations.”

 

Lewis also objected to the removal of public safety requirements, including striking references to the Centers for Disease Control’s infection prevention guidelines. “Most egregiously, under the advice of the attorney general’s office, regulations requiring abortion facilities to comply with state and local fire codes have been eliminated,” he said.

 

He later told the Catholic Herald, “This is basic common sense, whether it's a hotel or a shopping mall. Maybe I’m crazy but if the building is on fire,” how is that safe for women? Lewis asked.

 

Though originally passed in 2011 under the leadership of Gov. Bob McDonnell, due to time allotted for public hearings, the change in administration and other procedural delays, the regulations calling for hospital standards in abortion clinics never went into effect, said Olivia Gans Turner of the Virginia Society for Human Life.

 

Several abortion clinics in the commonwealth have closed during that time for other reasons, including facilities in Fairfax, Falls Church and Manassas. Turner hopes that new pro-life bills in the legislature will directly work to curb the number of abortions and not target the providers themselves.

 

Because the Board of Health added never-before seen amendments during the meeting, Lewis believes the regulations will be challenged in the courts.

 

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2016

@ZoeyMaraistACH