AP investigation shows Attorney General’s office ignored medical expertise.

Richmond, VA – The ACLU, its partners in the Virginia Coalition to Protect Women’s Health, and Del. Charniele Herring met with senior members of Governor Bob McDonnell’s policy staff on December 1 to urge him to send the draft abortion licensure regulations back to the Virginia Board of Health for revisions that reflect evidence-based medical practices that advance public health.
At the meeting, coalition members handed the governor’s office a petition with over 40,000 signatures opposing the proposed regulations, which were approved on September 15.  Unless amended, the new regulations will reduce or eliminate patient access to health care, including abortion care.
The regulations were issued as a result of SB 924, a 2011 law passed by the General Assembly mandating that the Board of Health create and implement new regulations treating clinics that perform five or more first-trimester abortions a year as if they were a category of hospital.
A recently released AP investigation, however, revealed that recommendations developed the Department of Health together with a medical committee convened by the Department were significantly different than what the Department ended up releasing. It appears that the committee’s recommendations would have likely enabled most health centers to remain open. The AP story highlights how the Attorney General’s office advised the Board of Health on the imposition of medically irrelevant requirements that were originally rejected by the Department of Health’s appointed medical committee.
“The AG’s office advised the Board of Health that the strict building standards are mandated by state law,” said Katherine A. Greenier, Director of the ACLU of Virginia’s Patricia M. Arnold Women’s Rights Project “but SB 924 does not require anything specific at all.”
“The recommendations of medical and public health experts convened to propose TRAP regulations would have allowed most abortion providers in Virginia to continue providing essential reproductive health care to their patients,” said Greenier.  “However, the intervention of the AG resulted in much more onerous regulations that threaten the viability of most providers.  No state has ever passed, and no court has ever upheld, such burdensome regulations.”
The rules crafted by the Department of Health and passed by the Board of Health currently await Governor McDonnell’s approval.  For an explanation of the proposed regulations go to: http://www.coalitionforwomenshealth.org/learn-more/draftregulations.shtml
The ACLU of Virginia partnered with the Virginia Coalition to Protect Women’s Health to oppose the new regulations.   Read the Coalition’s press release issued on December 3 in response to the AP’s investigation, “New Investigation Reveals Extensive Politicization of Abortion Regulation Process.”  Also, read the Coalition’s press release on the meeting with the Governor’s office.

Contact: Katherine Greenier, 804-644-8022