45-day public comment period next step in Virginia Department of Health regulatory review

Richmond, VA -- Today marked the beginning of a 45-day public comment period for Virginia’s medically unsound regulations of women’s health centers that provide comprehensive reproductive health care, like cancer screenings and family planning, as well as safe, legal first-trimester abortion. The public comment period, which comes a little over a month after Governor McAuliffe directed the Virginia Department of Health to initiate a review of these regulations, will remain open until July 31st.
“If the regulations are not repealed and rewritten, tens of thousands of Virginia women and families will lose access to critical medical care,” said Jill Abbey, administrator of the Richmond Medical Center for Women. “Any health center that can’t comply with these medically unnecessary regulations must close, restricting access to critical health care services centers like mine provide, such as cancer screenings and birth control.”
“As advocates for women’s health, we welcome oversight and regulations that protect patient safety,” said Tarina Keene, executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Virginia. “But these current restrictions do nothing to ensure public health, and instead actually endanger thousands of Virginia’s women and families by restricting access to critical medical care. We urge all who care about women’s health and rights to join us in calling for regulations based in medicine – not politics.”
“Over the past three years, doctors and medical groups have repeatedly opposed these regulations because they aren’t necessary for patients’ safety,” said Kathy Greenier, ACLU of Virginia Reproductive Freedom Project Director. “It’s time for the Board of Health to heed the advice of medical experts and give these politicized regulations the unbiased review that they deserve. We call on the Board and the Commissioner of Health to repeal and rewrite the regulations in order to protect women’s health and preserve access to comprehensive reproductive health care.”
Women’s health advocates expect thousands of Virginians to comment in opposition to these regulations. A recent public comment window in 2013 generated over 5,000 comments, with 81% of Virginians opposed to these stringent and medically-unnecessary restrictions.
ACLU of Virginia, NARAL Pro-Choice Virginia, Progress VA, and Planned Parenthood Advocates of Virginia are urging the public to submit comments on their shared website at http://bit.ly/TRAPcomment.   This coalition website will collect public comment in hard copy form, for later in person delivery to the Virginia Department of Health.
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The Virginia Coalition to Protect Women’s Health formed in 2011 as a response to the attack on women’s health and safety prompted by Senate Bill 924. The Virginia Coalition to Protect Women’s Health strives to protect and ensure access for all women in all regions of Virginia to safe first-trimester abortion and comprehensive reproductive health care services. The Coalition is committed to ensuring any regulations are based solely on medical and public health considerations. The Coalition is opposed to excessive, burdensome or unneeded regulations that undermine patient access to medical care for political or ideological purposes. Members, partners and allies include: ACLU of Virginia, Annandale Women and Family Center, Center for Reproductive Rights, Falls Church Healthcare Center, Feminist Majority Foundation, NARAL Pro-Choice Virginia, National Abortion Federation, NOVA Women’s Healthcare, Planned Parenthood Advocates of Virginia, Richmond Medical Center for Women, and Amethyst Health Center for Women.