Thousands of Virginians spoke out, and the message was clear - medicine and science, not politics should govern rules for women’s health centers.
As we’ve written before, against the advice of their own medical experts, in 2012 the Virginia Board of Health passed burdensome rules designed to close women’s health centers that provide critical health services like abortion, family planning, and cancer screenings to tens of thousands of Virginia women. The rules require women’s health centers to meet architectural requirements that no other health care facility in Virginia must meet and that have no relation to the safety of the services that women’s health centers provide. If women’s health centers can’t meet these unnecessary requirements, like five foot wide hallways, covered exits and entryways, and hospital-style HVAC systems, they must close.
In addition to ignoring the advice of their own medical experts, the Board also ignored a diverse group of 177 doctors and medical experts from across the Commonwealth who organized and independently funded a public letter and Richmond Times-Dispatch advertisement, writing that “[w]e must not travel down a dangerous slippery slope where we allow political forces to dictate medical care.” The Board’s decision to place politics above women’s health also led Dr. Karen Remley, the Virginia Health Commissioner, to resign her position.
As the Board considers whether to rewrite the rules, let’s hope that this time they listen to the advice of experts. Here’s what a few experts have recently told the Board:
- “I have devoted my career to helping women have the families they want… by supporting early and comprehensive prenatal care, preventing unintended pregnancy with medically accurate sex education and evidenced-based contraception, delivering babies, and providing safe abortion care. Given my 20+ years of providing this care, I know these regulations threaten the health and safety of Virginia women seeking safe, legal abortion care.” - Dr. Willie Parker, National Abortion Federation
- “As an Ob/Gyn in Virginia, I can attest first-hand that the current regulations restrict access to critical cancer screenings and annual care for thousands of Virginia women – particularly women in low-income areas, who rely heavily on these services and facilities for life-saving health care. These TRAP regulations are not based on medical evidence but, instead, politics. Abortion is, and should continue to be, a decision that is made by a woman and her family, with consultation from her doctor.” – Jamila Perritt, MD MPH
- “I am an expert in women’s health care and currently work as an OB-GYN in Virginia. I have been practicing medicine for three decades, including providing safe, legal abortion. Currently TRAP restrictions have absolutely nothing to do with protecting women’s health and safety, and in fact only endanger women’s health by restricting access to critical reproductive services.” - Sara Imershein, MD, MPH, FACOG
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