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