ACLU, Allies say politics –not women’s health and safety—continue to dominate regulatory process.

Official Statement from the Virginia Coalition to Protect Women’s Health: 
Richmond, Va. – The Virginia Coalition to Protect Women’s Health is once again gravely disappointed that the Virginia Department of Health (VDH) has chosen politics over science in drafting permanent regulations for women’s health care centers. As a statewide coalition of women’s health advocates and health care providers advocating against the politically motivated TRAP law – Targeted Regulations on Abortion Providers - we are dismayed that VDH once again ignored sound science and drafted regulations that are not only inappropriate for the provision of first-trimester abortion care, but are designed to severely limit access to safe, legal abortion care in the Commonwealth. These proposed permanent regulations, which are virtually identical to the widely-criticized temporary regulations, reflect a willful disregard for the outpouring of public concern in recent months about the impact of these extreme and burdensome regulations on women’s health care.
The temporary regulations for women’s health centers were developed using procedures for   “emergency” rules, although no public health emergency existed. The rules governing emergency regulations provided no opportunity for public participation in the development of the burdensome and unnecessary temporary regulations. Despite the shortened time frame and lack of formal opportunity to comment, thousands of Virginians and people across the nation called on the Governor and the Board of Health to amend the temporary regulations to reflect medicine -not politics - and keep reproductive health care accessible for all Virginia women.
Medical professionals, convened by the Department of Health during the drafting of the temporary regulations, recommended changes to the final regulations which were based in sound science and good medical practice. Those recommendations included stipulating that the new structural requirements would not apply to existing health centers – some of which have provided safe and trusted care for three decades. Those recommendations, made by the state’s own expert medical panel, were rejected by the Attorney General’s office in favor of onerous, medically irrelevant requirements. Now, the draft permanent regulations include the same burdensome and unnecessary physical requirements, once again ignoring the expertise of medical professionals and the outpouring of criticism from the thousands of Virginians.
The release of the proposed final rules begins another lengthy administrative process – giving the Board of Health, the public, health care providers, and other administrative agencies time to weigh in about the appropriate course of action. Now is the time for the Board to again hear from members of the public and the medical community about why these proposed final regulations do not make sense – and how they can be amended to reflect best practices.
In the days leading up to the June 15 Board of Health meeting, the Virginia Coalition to Protect Women’s Health will be providing input to the Board of Health urging them to amend the proposed final rules  to ensure that they are based upon proven medical practices that actually advance the public health. We encourage the medical community and the public to weigh in with the Board as well. We are mounting a public campaign and will review all of our options to develop the most appropriate strategy to protect women’s health and rights.
To learn more about the Virginia Coalition to Protect Women’s Health, please visit http://coalitionforwomenshealth.org/.
From the ACLU of Virginia:
The ACLU of Virginia has partnered with the Virginia Coalition to Protect Women’s Health.  The Coalition formed in 2011 as a response to the attack on women’s health and safety prompted by the passage of Senate Bill 924.  In March 2011, Governor Bob McDonnell signed SB 924, a bill that classifies women’s health centers in the state as a category of hospitals, making them subject to new regulations created by the Department of Health.
While emergency temporary regulations went into effect in January 2012, the permanent regulatory process is underway.  The Department of Health released its draft of the permanent regulations late this afternoon.  The Board of Health will vote on the draft permanent regulations at its meeting on June 15, 2012.
Katherine Greenier, Director of the Patricia M. Arnold Women’s Rights Project at the ACLU of Virginia said of the regulatory process, “Since the 1970s, women’s health care centers in Virginia have provided safe, accessible, comprehensive medical care to communities across the Commonwealth, protecting and caring for the lives of women. But women’s health in Virginia is in serious jeopardy under Gov. Bob McDonnell and Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli’s leadership.  They have taken aggressive measures to turn back the clock forty years on women’s health care and abortion, overriding public comment and ignoring medical experts’ opinions.  Virginia women deserve better.  We deserve policies based on medical knowledge, not politics.”

ACLU of Virginia Contact: Katherine Greenier, Women's Rights Project Director, 804-644-8022

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