By Kathy Greenier, Reproductive Freedom Project Director

According to the Guttmacher Institute, states enacted fewer abortion restrictions this year than the previous three years. This is good news, right? Not necessarily. Instead, as the Guttmacher Institute recently reported, access to abortion will decrease in many states especially because of restrictions known as targeted regulations of abortion providers (TRAP).

Currently, 26 states have some type of TRAP law regulating abortion provision. As we’ve written before, TRAP laws come in all shapes and sizes, from requiring medically unnecessary architectural changes to their facilities to requiring doctors to have admitting privileges at a local hospital. Virginia is one of the 13 states regulating the width of corridor and one of the 13 states specifying the size of procedure rooms. Doctors and medical groups agree those changes aren’t necessary for patients’ safety because abortion is an extremely common and safe procedure safely performed in office-based setting throughout the country. It’s unbelievable – 41 years after Roe enshrined that abortion is a constitutionally protected right, fifty-nine percent of women in the country live in a state that has a TRAP law designed specifically to reduce their access to safe abortion.

In 2012, the Virginia Board of Health passed burdensome and medically-unnecessary TRAP rules designed to close the few women’s health centers that actually existed in the Commonwealth. In 2011, before these rules went in to effect, only 8% of Virginia counties had a women’s health center. Since the rules took effect, three of Virginia’s twenty-one women’s health centers have closed, in part due to TRAP, or stopped providing abortion. And, let’s not forget these facilities provide much more than just abortion services, including birth control and cancer screenings. These facilities are vital to providing thousands of Virginia women with access to comprehensive health care.

The Board of Health is deciding whether the TRAP rules should be rewritten – whether science and women’s health should prevail over personal politics. Tell the Board of Health that they should welcome this second chance to protect Virginia women. It’s not every day you get such an opportunity.

While we’ve seen fewer attacks on abortion in the Virginia legislature in the past couple of years, our TRAP law could drastically impact access if we don’t rewrite these medically unnecessary rules. With your effort, we can make sure that Virginia is a state where attacks on abortion actually decrease.

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