By Kathy Greenier, ACLU of Virginia Reproductive Freedom Project Director
It’s been 2 weeks since the public comment period for TRAP (Targeted Regulations of Abortion Providers) opened, and already over 1,600 people have voiced their opposition to medically unnecessary restrictions designed to close women’s health centers. Why should you add your voice?
First, some background. Three years ago the Department of Health imposed new regulations on Virginia women’s health centers are based in politics, not medicine. While the Department convened a panel of six top medical experts from across the Commonwealth to draft regulations that govern women’s health care centers that provide abortions, as well as comprehensive reproductive health care like cancer screenings and family planning, it ignored its own experts’ recommendations – instead choosing to draft and approve medically unnecessary regulations that apply only to these women’s health centers. The impact was obvious – these centers would either have to make expensive and medically unjustified renovations or close their doors, which many did.
By forcing health centers to close, the current regulations not only restrict access to abortion services, but also to the numerous other basic health services that these centers provide(d), such as to cancer screenings and annual care. Thousands of Virginia women – particularly women in low-income areas – are impacted by these regulations. It’s time for the Board to put women’s health above their personal beliefs.
How can your voice make a difference? Well, the Department is now reviewing these dangerous regulations to decide whether they should be repealed and completely rewritten, amended, or upheld. If the regulations remain unchanged, additional health centers will close, cutting off women’s access to preventative and critical health care. This is not acceptable. Fortunately, the Board is currently taking public comment (including yours if you wish) on this decision.
The public comment period is the first step in the Department’s review of these medically unnecessary regulations. From now until July 31st, Virginians have the chance to make our voices heard. We must show the Department just how burdensome and unfair these regulations are. Please, join us – make your voice heard and save women’s health centers!