Richmond, VA - Today, medical professionals and women who rely on Virginia's women's health centers made yet another appeal to Virginia's Board of Health to amend the medically unnecessary Targeted Restrictions of Abortion Providers (TRAP). The Board of Health is currently reviewing the regulations and Health Commissioner Dr. Marissa Levine must decide by October 1st if the TRAP restrictions will be amended, rescinded and rewritten, or left unchanged. If the restrictions remain in their current form, thousands of Virginia women may lose access to basic preventive care, including life-saving cancer screenings, family planning, and safe legal abortion care."We can all agree that standards of care and guidelines are imperative to keep women-and all patients, safe. However, the stringent architectural requirements mandated by these regulations, and solely applied to abortion providers, have no medical basis," said Dr. Frances Casey, a Virginia Ob/Gyn.
In 2011, the Virginia Department of Health appointed medical experts to recommend evidence-based regulations for women's health centers. The Board of Health ignored those recommendations and instead approved medically-unnecessary restrictions designed to close quality women's health centers that provide basic reproductive care, including life-saving cancer screenings, family planning, and safe legal abortion care to women across the Commonwealth.
"Without Virginia women's health centers, it would be virtually impossible for me to access the birth control and other reproductive health services that I need," said Amanda Spence, a resident of Disputanta who regularly makes the 1-hour drive to receive care at the Virginia League for Planned Parenthood. "I am unemployed and not eligible for the insurance under the Affordable Care Act, since I fall into the Medicaid coverage gap and the Virginia General Assembly refuses to expand Medicaid. I have tried to go to sliding scale clinics offered by the state, only to be turned away in tears because I live with my father-in-law and they considered his income mine. If Virginia women's health centers were forced to close due to TRAP restrictions, I would not be able to access the health care I rely on."
Though the Commissioner has several options on how to address the restrictions, including amending them or leaving as is, impacted women and medical professionals are asking for the restrictions to be amended in a process that relies on medical evidence and the reality of the safety of abortion care, not politics and ideology.
The restrictions apply to 18 women's health centers across Virginia that perform five or more first trimester abortions a month. Three centers have closed their doors or stopped providing abortion services, in part, because of TRAP.