Virginia Coalition to Protect Women's Health says politics, not public health, is driving force behind draft regulations released today

Official Statement from the Virginia Coalition to Protect Women's Health:
Richmond, Va. – The Virginia Coalition to Protect Women’s Health, the statewide coalition of health care providers and women’s health advocates formed after the passage of a law singling out women’s health centers for new regulations, is disappointed that the Virginia Department of Health apparently has ignored sound science and drafted regulations designed to limit access to safe, legal abortion services.  These onerous regulations appear to go well beyond any existing regulations seen in other states,including South Carolina.
The Virginia Department of Health draft regulations threaten the continued availability of safe, legal first-trimester abortion in multiple locations throughout the state.
In particular, the draft regulations require existing women’s health centers in Virginia to meet extensive, significant physical plant requirements found in the 2010 Guidelines for Design and Construction of Health Care Facilities – including Guidelines for Outpatient Surgical Facilities, otherwise called ambulatory surgical facilities.  These Guidelines are intended for brand new construction in the processof being built. These standards were never intended for existing health care structures and are not intended to apply to office-based surgical procedures.  By relying on the 2010 Guidelines and imposing them on existing structures, the Virginia Department of Health would force substantial architectural changes by women’s health centers in order to be in compliance.  Rather than protect women’s health, the regulations could endanger women because they could limit access to safe abortion by driving legitimate providers out of practice, which could place the health of women in Virginia in jeopardy.
First-trimester abortion is a safe, legal medical procedure. By age 45, at least half of all women will experience an unintended pregnancy and three in 10 women will have an abortion in the United States.  Early abortion care is already difficult to access in the Commonwealth, with 86 percent of Virginia’s counties lacking any abortion providers. Politics – not public health – is the driving force behind the regulations.
These new attempts to single out women’s health centers are part of an unprecedented political campaign at the state and federal levels to undermine women’s access to safe, legal reproductive healthcare services. Unable to make the procedure illegal, the Virginia General Assembly sought to make first-trimester abortion procedures inaccessible in Virginia. If the regulations are not amended to reflect sound medical practices, women in many parts of the state may lose access to reproductive health services, including life-saving cancer screenings, family planning, and STI testing and treatment, not just abortion.
The draft regulations will now go before the Board of Health.  In the coming days, the Virginia Coalitionto Protect Women’s Health will be providing input to the Board of Health urging them to amend these regulations to ensure that they are based upon proven medical practices that advance the public health and we encourage the medical community and the public to weigh in with the Board as well. We are mounting a public campaign, including a rally on September 14th, 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
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, 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.  Late this afternoon, the draft regulations were released by the Department of Health.
Katherine Greenier, Director of the Patricia M. Arnold Women’s Rights Project at the ACLU of Virginia said of the regulations, “The current draft is unnecessarily burdensome and medically inappropriate. We have now entered the public comment period, during which the Board of Health has the opportunity to hear from medical professionals, experts and others. Many, including the ACLU of Virginia, will be urging the Board to revise the regulations to reflect appropriate standards.”