Ever since AG Cuccinelli released his opinion that the state government of Virginia can, and should, regulate abortions more rigorously than other outpatient procedures, there has been an outcry at the implied lack of regulations for abortion clinics. One Bristow citizen wrote to Inside NOVA, “I live in a suburb outside Manassas and am deeply concerned about the lack of health and safety regulations for abortion clinics in the city.” A Charlottesville resident writes in C-Ville Weekly: “Abortion proponents would sacrifice women…at the altar of ‘access.’ For this, they should be stripped of any feminist credentials.” (This second piece is in response to an opinion piece by former Charlottesville mayor, and abortion patient, Virginia Daugherty.) The two letters are symptoms of a current plague of misinformation about current abortion regulations, so we’re coming back with some facts. Pass them along, and help us keep abortions safe and legal in Virginia!
Far from unrestricted, abortion clinics are already regulated by four different governing bodies: the Department of Health Professions, the Board of Medicine, the Board of Pharmacy, and the Board of Nursing. Providers are also subject to American Medical Association and National Abortion Federation statutes, as well as federal regulations like the Clinical Laboratory Improvement Amendments (CLIA) and Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA); OSHA and the FDA also exert control over the procedure and providers.
Abortion clinics are not only regulated as physicians’ offices performing outpatient procedures, but also provisions in Virginia law specifically govern abortion. For example, physicians performing first or second trimester abortions must be licensed by the Board of Medicine. In addition, doctors must inform potential abortion patients about alternatives (such as adoption), describe the fetus’ physical characteristics and the abortion procedure, and obtain the patient’s informed consent. There are tough penalties for not adhering to these rules.
Why is it important that people know the truth about these regulations? Because without the facts, anti-choice crusaders with a one-track mind will pursue unnecessary regulations to end access to abortion in Virginia. In fact, anti-choice elected officials are using local municipalities to assault access to abortion. On Monday of this week, the city of Manassas, passed an anti-choice resolution because “the potential complications of abortion procedures are numerous and well-documented.” (You can find the text of the resolution here beginning on page 121.) This is flatly untrue. The complication rate for abortion is .3%, compared to 1.7% for tonsillectomies, 1-5% for breast augmentation, and .4%-3.5% for LASIK (for which 10% of patients also need additional treatment). Abortion is safer than any of these fairly common procedures. However, there is no anti-tonsillectomy group calling for greater restrictions on the procedure because, just like with abortion, there is no need for further regulations. Abortion is safe, legal, and regulated. We have to make sure officials who publicly make false assertions while refusing invitations to visit the offices they are decrying do not get away with spreading lies about the safety and regulation of abortion.
[Thanks to our intern Brett for her work on this post.]