This weekend, we got more evidence that Virginia’s new regulations singling out abortion providers are about one thing only: a political agenda to eliminate access to safe, legal abortion in Virginia.
On Saturday, Larry O’Dell of the Associated Press released a story titled, “Some medical advisors question abortion rules.” The story focused on the medical professionals and educators who advised the Virginia Department of Health in developing targeted regulations on abortion providers following the passage of S.B. 924 earlier this year.
The point of the story was simple and clear: the regulations now on the governor’s desk awaiting his approval are drastically different than those recommended by a panel of medical professionals and originally drafted by the Department of Health, in ways that make them excessively difficult for abortion providers to meet and would force many of them to close.
We’re wondering what happened. And we’re not the only ones. One of the medical professionals on the advisory panel expressed his confusion:
Dr. James E. Ferguson II, chairman of the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at the University of Virginia…said the document adopted by the board in September went well beyond what the advisory panel recommended. “I don’t know where they got changed, but ultimately they were different, more stringent and more restrictive – and several of them, at least, unnecessary,” Ferguson said.
Those of us who were at the Board of Health meeting in September saw Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli’s office hijack deliberations in order to make the regulations as far-reaching as possible.
The new article highlights some specific ways Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli’s office worked to turn medical suggestions for targeted regulations that would have at least been related to medical science into an overreaching, ideologically-motivated attack on abortion access. Let’s take a look at a couple medical recommendations Cuccinelli’s office rejected:
Medical recommendation 1: Allow existing facilities to be “grandfathered” in to building requirements.
This would mean that, according to the AP article, existing offices “would not be held to standards that were not in place when they opened.” No other existing medical facilities in Virginia are required to be retrofitted to meet new construction codes.
Ken Cuccinelli’s view: “New strict building standards – which cover things like hallway widths and covered entrances – are mandated by state law.”
Medical advice: Rejected.
Medical recommendation 2: Limit regulations to offices providing surgical abortion and exempt offices that only provide medical abortion.
This would mean that offices offering medication abortion would not be subject to the same strict building requirements as an office providing surgery — a commonsense exception that would have excluded providers that do not even do surgical procedures from having to adhere to hospital-style regulations.
Ken Cuccinelli’s view: “State law makes no distinction between medical and surgical abortions so the board can’t either.”
Medical advice: Rejected
The bottom line: Attorney General Cuccinelli’s office continues overreaching to push these regulations to their most extreme possible form, disregarding sound medical science and the expertise of health professionals in his pursuit of a backdoor ban on access to abortion in Virginia.
If you haven’t yet, contact Governor McDonnell or write a letter to the editor of your local paper to express your concern about anti-choice ideology trumping sound medical science and women’s healthcare needs in the crafting of these regulations.