By Laura Foronda, NARAL Pro-Choice Virginia volunteer
On June 29th, 2016, I was lucky enough to join in on hand-delivering 5,500+ comments to the Virginia Board of Health. The experience of walking into the Virginia Board of Health a couple days after the landmark Supreme Court case, Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt, has been memorable. It felt great to be able to have a voice, along with several other thousand Virginians, about ending the unnecessary sham restrictions on abortion providers. NARAL Pro-Choice Virginia, Planned Parenthood Advocates of Virginia, American Civil Liberties Union of Virginia, and Progress Virginia were just some of the advocates that drove early Wednesday morning from all over Virginia to Richmond show support and make our voices known. This experience has made me proud to stand up for something I am passionate about and make a real difference in people’s lives across the Commonwealth.
In 2013, the Virginia Board of Health advanced sham restrictions on health care centers that provide abortion located in Virginia, mirroring many other states’ TRAP restrictions, including those in Texas that were just ruled unconstitutional. The 5,500+ comments we delivered will be used as part of the comment period that the Board of Health is holding while reviewing proposed amendments on Virginia abortion facilities regulations. NARAL Pro-Choice Virginia has urged the Board of Health to look at medical evidence and not political ideology, in order to save women’s health centers that provide reproductive health care, including abortion and birth control. Politicians, not medical doctors, have been the ones in favor to cut women’s access to these reproductive health care services. It is time to show Virginia and the rest of the country that leading medical organizations and experts are not in favor of these restrictions. Abortion access should be a medical matter, not a political one.
Closing these women’s health care centers only forces women to take matters into their own hands, meaning they could also possibly end up with sub-standard providers. In October of 2012, Dr. Karen Remley, former Virginia Health Commissioner, and current CEO of the American Academy of Pediatrics, resigned from her position as health commissioner to protest the politicized restrictions on these health care providers. In her resignation letter, Remley stated “Unfortunately, how specific sections of the Virginia Code pertaining to the development and enforcement of these regulations have been and continue to be interpreted has created an environment in which my ability to fulfill my duties is compromised and in good faith I can no longer serve in my role.”
On September 15th, the Virginia Board of Health will vote on the proposed amendments. Many Virginians, myself included, are hoping that they will help preserve access to the quality care women deserve based in medicine, not politics. If not, tens of thousands of women will be cut from quality health care and be forced to be on their own. Not only do these health centers provide safe and legal abortions, but they also provide affordable services like birth control and cancer screenings. Nevertheless, it has been a memorable experience helping deliver the thousands of comments to the Board of Health, solely because it is amazing to see the pro-choice community come out and unite as one big team.