ACLU of Virginia Urges Board of Health to Make Decisions Based on Medicine, not Politics

Civil liberties Group Calls on the Board of Health to Act Quickly to Rescind Medically Unnecessary and Burdensome Regulations that Limit Access to Abortion

Richmond, VA — Governor McAuliffe announced today that he has asked the Virginia Board of Health to begin immediately to review regulations that threaten access to abortion without any benefit to women’s health or safety. The regulations, commonly referred to as Targeted Regulations of Abortion Providers (TRAP), require existing women’s health centers that provide five or more abortions per year to meet design and construction requirements that are not needed to protect patient health or safety.

“The Board of Health should be focused on one thing – ensuring the health of all Virginians,” said Kathy Greenier, Director of the Reproductive Freedom Project of the ACLU of Virginia. “Unfortunately, by placing medically unnecessary and burdensome requirements on women’s health care providers, TRAP has the opposite effect. The regulations restrict access to needed medical care and undermine women’s health by forcing women’s health care centers to shut down if they can’t make or afford the medically unnecessary changes to their facilities. We commend Governor McAuliffe for calling on the Board of Health to review these medically unnecessary regulations and for placing women’s health above politics. We urge the Board of Health to act quickly to rescind these politically driven rules.”

In March 2011, former Governor Bob McDonnell signed SB 924, a bill that classifies women’s health centers in the Commonwealth as hospitals, making them subject to new regulations created by the Department of Health and voted on by the Board of Health. These regulations exempted existing facilities from the design and construction requirements. But, former Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli refused to certify the regulations as approved by the Board, inaccurately claiming that the Board does not have the authority to exempt existing women’s health centers from the new rules. Former Governor McDonnell asserted that, without the Attorney General’s certification, the Board could not move forward with the regulatory process. Thus, the Board’s final vote on the regulations subjected existing women’s health care centers to design and construction requirements not related to patient safety that are intended to apply to new construction only.

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