Virginia Pro-Choice Coalition Tweetchat!

This Thursday,  Feb. 7th, is the Virginia Pro-Choice Day of Action….and we are PUMPED.

NARAL Pro-Choice Virginia is so excited to join our fellow women’s health advocates and activists in locations across the Commonwealth as we fight for reproductive rights and critical access to health care. With events in Arlington, Blacksburg, Charlottesville, Richmond, Roanoke, and DC, there are a TON of opportunities for you to get involved this Thursday! Check out our registration page for more details, including shift times, locations, and directions. We can’t wait to see you there!

Stuck at work or at home on Thursday? No worries – there are plenty of ways for you to take action online. This year, we are happy to announce our Day of Action Tweetchat, which will take place from 1-2pm!

DOA Tweetchat

On Thursday at this time, Virginia’s health care providers, pro-choice organizations, and women’s rights activists will be live-tweeting about the status of reproductive rights, choice, and access in VA – and how we can ensure safe, affordable, and accessible health care for all.

We will also have some special guests joining us, including: WIN (@WINonline), fabulous feminist bloggers & activists Erin Matson (@ErinToTheMax) and Jessica Pieklo (@hegemommy), superstar women’s rights advocate Lily Bolourian (@LilyBolourian), and others!

Join the conversation this Thursday from 1-2pm by following us (@NARALvirginia) and using the hashtag #4healthVA. We can’t wait to hear your thoughts on the ongoing fight for Virginia’s reproductive health!

Members of the Virginia Pro-Choice Coalition:

PCC coaltion orgs

Virginia NOW, Progress VA, American Civil Liberties Union of Virginia, Planned Parenthood Advocates of Virginia, Unite Women Virginia, National Council of Jewish Women of Virginia, Jewish Community Relations Council of Virginia, NARAL Pro-Choice Virginia, League of Women Voters of Virginia, American Association of University Women of Virginia

Rally for Choice in Richmond: Happy 40th Anniversary Roe v. Wade!

Hello! My name is Sandra Sanchez and I am the new intern at NARAL Pro-Choice Virginia! Yesterday I went to the Rally for Choice in Richmond.

Yesterday marked the 40th Anniversary of Roe v. Wade, the landmark Supreme Court decision, which gave women the right to privacy when deciding to terminate a pregnancy. Yesterday, the Virginia Pro-Choice Coalition, which includes NARAL Pro-Choice VA, Planned Parenthood Advocates of Virginia, and League of Women Voters of Virginia, and other great organizations, hosted the Rally for Choice in Richmond celebrating the 40th Anniversary of Roe!

Despite the cold weather, a huge crowd came in support and to listen to inspirational speakers at the Virginia State Capitol. Yesterday we heard from pro-choice legislators in the Virginia General Assembly, including Sen. Favola, Sen. Herring, Sen. Northam, Del. Ward, and Del. Plum, and cheered their work to protect women’s rights in the Commonwealth. We also heard from Sara Hutchinson of Catholics for Choice and Dr. Karen Remley, the former Virginia Health Commissioner who resigned over the Governor and Attorney General’s politicization of TRAP regulations.

5Dr. Remley told the crowd, “I, like I think a lot of you, acknowledge that abortion is a morally complex and difficult issue. But I really believe that all of us face morally complex and difficult issues every day. Whether it is deciding what bill to vote for and how to represent your constituents fairly, whether it’s at a patient’s bedside, or whether it’s as a state agency person trying to figure out how to use funding. We all have many complex issues…that we discuss. It’s important that women are given the authority to have that discussion with their doctor, with their family, with whomever they choose, and are not interfered with by others.”

After all the speakers, all those in attendance lined up on the sidewalk between the General Assembly and the Capitol Building to show their presence as Virginia legislators walked by. Our activists were greeted by Virginia legislators such as Del. Herring, Del. Lopez, and Del. Spruill. Then the crowd headed into the General Assembly gallery to watch our pro-choice legislators commemorate Roe v. Wade.3

As someone who was born almost 20 years after the Roe v. Wade decision, it was great to celebrate the fight and victory of women 40 years ago. Despite the cold and the awful signs of the counter protestors, it was truly a wonderful experience to be around people who feel such as strongly as I do about the issue of reproductive rights. It was awesome to hear from those fighting in Richmond and how they continue to fight this important fight for women in the commonwealth. This wasn’t my first rally in Richmond and still every time I attend a pro-choice rally I think of how important this issue is and how far we still have to go.

Thankfully, I am not fighting the fight of generations before me. But we are still fighting a similar fight. Even though Roe v. Wade was a great thing for women’s choice, Virginia is a state that wants to take that choice away. Being someone who was born and raised in Virginia, I want to feel proud of my state. But with people like Ken Cuchinelli, Gov. McDonnell, and anti-choice legislators, it can be difficult. Yesterday restored my belief that Virginia will move on from recent attacks on women’s rights, and solidified my hope that one day, Virginia will protect the rights of women to make our own decisions. It was amazing to celebrate the 40th anniversary of Roe v. Wade with some of Virginia’s best activists. Here’s to many more anniversaries to celebrate – and to more victories for women!


Tell Your Senator to Pass Pro-Choice Legislation NOW!

If we are going to have a shot at turning back last year’s overwhelming tide of anti-choice legislation, we need your help right nowOver the past two years, Virginia’s  lawmakers have passed some of the most stringent restrictions on  reproductive rights in the county.  We all remember 2012’s outright War on Virginia Women: attempts to grant “personhood” status to fertilized eggs, attempts to force trans-vaginal ultrasounds on women seeking safe legal abortion care, and even a bill to ban abortion outright at 20 weeks – with no real exemption for the health or life of the mother.

Now, we’re fighting back. Our pro-choice allies in the General Assembly have introduced legislation to protect women’s rights, ensure access to reproductive health care, and repeal the worst of last year’s attacks:

  • Sen. Ralph Northam and Sen. Barbara Favola have introduced legislation  (SB 1080 and SB 1082) in the Senate to repeal Virginia’s invasive forced ultrasound law, which currently forces Virginia women to undergo a mandatory ultrasound 24 hours before accessing her constitutionally-protected right to an abortion.
  • Sen. Mark Herring has introduced SB 1115 and SB 1116, which would repeal and negate onerous and burdensome targeted regulations (TRAP)  on women’s health centers in Virginia. If not repealed, TRAP regulations will likely force the majority of Virginia’s women’s health clinics to shut their doors.
  • Sen. Donald McEachin has introduced the Birth Control Protection Act (SB 783), to formally distinguish between FDA-approved methods of contraception and abortion. Without a formal definition, anti-choice lawmakers can continue to blur the line between birth control and abortion, and may attempt to restrict birth control as stringently as abortion.

If passed, these bills will help restore reproductive rights, protect women’s health, and  make a positive difference for thousands of Virginian women. But first, each bill must be passed by the Senate Education and Health Committee if they are to continue to the Senate floor for a full vote.

Every one of our pro-choice bills in the Senate (including every one mentioned above) will be heard in the Senate Ed & Health committee this Thursday, January 17. If these important bills have even the slightest shot at becoming law, they must be approved by Committee on Thursday.

TAKE ACTION NOW: If your Senator serves on this committee,  tell him or her to support these critical pro-choice bills! Here is the list of Senators on the Education and Health Committee who will be considering these bills:

If you are unsure who your Senator is, please go here to find out. 

If your Senator is serving on the Ed & Health Committee (and will be voting on these bills Thursday), now is the time to CONTACT. Email or call your Senator and urge them to vote in support of these bills and send this important legislation to the Senate floor! 

Sample letter to your Senator:

Dear Senator [NAME],

As your constituent, I’m contacting you today to urge you to vote in support of SB 1082, SB 1080, SB . 1115, SB 1116 and SB 783. If passed these bills will protect reproductive rights, repeal Virginia’s most burdensome and unnecessary restrictions on women’s health, and increase access to essential medical care for thousands of Virginian women.

Currently, Virginia’s forced ultrasound law inappropriately inserts the government into the homes and doctor’s offices of women and their families.  This law marks the first time the Virginia General Assembly has mandated a diagnostic test that supersedes a doctor’s advice and a patient’s consent, and represents a significant road block for women seeking to access their constitutionally protect right to an abortion. SB 1080 and SB 1082 would repeal and negate this law and ensure that Virginian women are given the support and respect they deserve.  Please vote in favor of these bills.

Senate Bill 1115 and Senate Bill 1116 would eliminate the law passed in 2011 that requires women’s health clinics to comply with the construction standards of new hospitals.  Targeted regulations on abortion providers (TRAP) are burdensome, medically unnecessary, and nothing but a thinly-veiled attempt to shut down Virginia’s women’s health clinics.  First trimester abortions are among the safest of all medical procedures, and  Virginia’s women’s health centers  have exemplary health records and have been inspected and listened by the Virginia Department of Health. If passed, SB 1115 and SB 1116 would ensure that the majority of women’s health centers remain open and continue to provide essential medical care. Please support these bills.

Finally, please vote in favor of SB 783, the Birth Control Protection Act. Currently, the Code of Virginia does not distinguish between FDA-approved methods of contraception and abortion. In absence of a clear definition, there have been attempts to blur the lines between contraception and abortion, as well as limit access to family planning services under the code section relating to abortion. Contraception is basic health care for women, and is used by virtually every sexually active woman of reproductive age.  It is essential that birth control remains safe, accessible, and affordable for the women of Virginia.

Again, I urge you to stand with the women of Virginia and your district in supporting these critically important bills.


[Your name]

[Your home address]

Thank you for taking action! Please help us spread the word to your Virginia friends, neighbors, and family members. To stay updated, “like” us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter for up-to-the minute news from the halls of the General Assembly. And don’t forget to join us and hundreds of other pro-choice Virginians to mark the 40th anniversary of Roe v. Wade at the “Rally for Choice” at the Capitol in Richmond on Tuesday, January 22 at 10 a.m!

Virginia Women Trapped by Board of Health Decision

Hi Everyone:

My name is Alena Yarmosky and I am the new Advocacy & Communications Manager with NARAL Pro-Choice Virginia.  I joined the NARAL VA team two weeks ago, and have loved getting to know all of our amazing volunteers and supporters. I look forward to working with you all in the coming weeks and months!

Unfortunately, it has been a tough few days for us here at NARAL Pro-Choice VA, and for women all over the state. At the Virginia Board of Health meeting last Friday (September 14) the Board of Health voted to subject existing women’s health centers to burdensome and medically-unnecessary TRAP regulations.

These proposed construction requirements (now approved by the Board) have nothing to do with protecting women’s health and safety, and are instead designed to force health centers across the state to close. Renovations to meet TRAP regulations could cost millions of dollars, and are simply not an option for many of Virginia’s health centers. If signed into law, TRAP regulations could force over 15 clinics to shut their doors, and keep thousands of Virginia women from accessing essential medical care.

We have activist Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli to blame. Cuccinelli has done everything in his power (and many things beyond his legal and constitutional authority) to bully the Board into reversing its June decision and imposing restrictive TRAP regulations. Five Board of Health members caved to his pressure tactics and switched their votes, with a total of 13 out of  15 members voting to put Cuccienlli’s political agenda before medical fact (Jim Edmonson and Dr. Anna Jeng were the only two who stood strong).

Even worse, Friday’s Board meeting was a blatant denial of public comment and the democratic process. Time for public input was slashed in half, and hundreds of pro-choice activists and experts were shut out of the building despite repeated requests to move the meeting to a location that could accommodate all participants.

Unfortunately we can’t be too surprised by the Board’s vote, or by this administration’s blatant disregard for women’s health and rights. Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli and Governor Bob McDonnell have spent their careers putting an anti-choice political agenda before health, safety, and Virginia law. AG Cuccinelli has publicly stated that his goal is to end abortion in Virginia, and his brazen actions over the last three months have shown us just how serious he is.

We may have lost the battle, but the fight for women’s health is just beginning.

In the coming months, we will continue to fight TRAP before it becomes law. But as the state legislative session draws nearer, Virgina women will again find themselves the target of anti-choice legislators determined to play doctor and erode critical access to reproductive health care.

We will face “personhood”, a bill that could outlaw birth control, common fertility treatments, and abortion  – even in cases of rape or incest. We will face attempts to end abortion after 20 weeks, attempts to ban insurance companies from covering reproductive services, and continued attempts to close clinics through endless bureaucratic hoops and bounds of red tape.

We have to fight back! As Advocacy & Communications Manager here at NARAL Pro-Choice Virginia, fighting for women’s health (through phone banking, canvassing, voter drives and more) is a large part of my job. But we need you to stand with us.

Please email me to sign up to volunteer, or if you’re interested in learning more about NARAL Pro-Choice Virginia’s plans for the fall. I look forward to working with you all, and continuing our fight for women’s health.

Stop Attorney Gen. Cuccinelli & Urge the Board of Health: Put Medicine Before Politics!

Just when we thought sanity might have returned to Virginia’s government… Govenor McDonnell & Attorney General Cuccinelli are at it again.

Earlier this summer, the Virginia Board of Health voted to amend a key provision of proposed TRAP regulations (Targeted Regulations of Abortion Providers) to exempt existing women’s health centers from burdensome and politically-motivated construction requirements. The amended TRAP regulations (while still posing a serious threat to the privacy and security of patients and providers) were a huge victory for Virginia women.  By amending proposed TRAP regulations to “grandfather in” existing clinics, it is estimated that the Board saved more than twenty women’s health centers across the state from being forced to close their doors.

The Board’s vote was legally sound, constitutional, and medically correct.  But on July 16, Attorney General Cuccinelli announced that he would refuse to certify the amended regulations. His reasoning? According to a letter sent from Cuccinelli to Dr. Karen Remley, commissioner of the Virginia Dept. of Health, in voting to amend TRAP regulations, the Board had “exceeded its authority.”

Reason (and law) show that the Board acted precisely within its authority: Virginia law directs the Board to enact regulations “consistent with the current edition of the Guidelines for Design and Construction of Hospital and Health Care Facilities.” The June 15 decision to amend TRAP (and exempt existing health centers from costly construction requirements) is absolutely “consistent with” the guidelines as written.

Let’s call like it is – Attorney General Cuccinelli rejected the Board’s decision not for any medical or legal reason, but simply because it flew in the face of his anti-choice political agenda. In voting to exempt existing health centers from TRAP regulations, the Board of Health protected access to reproductive health services (including safe abortion) for thousands of women across the Commonwealth. Apparently you can have the constitution, law, and medical community on your side, but dare to protect women’s access to health care? You’re overruled.

Since then, AG Cuccinelli has pulled out every trick in the book to essentially veto the Board’s vote – even though such an action is unconstitutional and blatantly in violation of Virginia law. Now, after months of pressuring the Board to reverse their decision, Cuccinelli is forcing them to meet again and reconsider the proposed TRAP regulations. This time, he hopes to bully the Board of Health into toeing his political line – and putting women’s reproductive health-care back in the line of fire.

We need your help to urge the Board of Health to stand strong against the Attorney General’s bullying! Together, we must take action to stop this administration’s anti-choice agenda before it threatens the health of thousands of Virginia women.

Ways to help:

Looking for more up-to-the-minute information and more ways to get involved? Follow the Va Coalition on Twitter!

Why I support NARAL Pro-Choice Virginia

Guest post by Angela Guzman, Chair of NARAL Pro-Choice Virginia’s Board of Directors

In January, I assumed the reins as chair of NARAL Pro-Choice Virginia — the 501(c)(4) advocacy arm of Virginia’s now 10-year-old NARAL Pro-Choice America state affiliate. I came on board with my sleeves rolled up, but admittedly, I failed to comprehend just how intensely we were going to have to work in protecting our rights and access to women’s health here in Virginia this year.

The 2012 General Assembly was a firestorm, fueled by anti-choice legislative members intent on advancing a political and ideological agenda — one deeply rooted in misguided beliefs that are dangerous to women’s health, and essentially deem us incapable of reaching sound conclusions about our own bodies, even with the counsel of our trusted medical professionals.

I support NARAL Pro-Choice Virginia because it is incomprehensible to me that I live in a state where our founding fathers (and let’s be honest, our founding mothers, too) developed the United States’ fundamental principles of freedom—life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness—and yet, this ongoing intrusion of government over women’s bodies and health only continues to escalate in intensity, rather than come to a screeching halt.

Continue reading

Attorney General Wrong to Reject Changes to Regulations for Women’s Health Centers

by Chris Lewis, legal intern:

On Monday, Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli announced that his office would not certify the regulations for first-trimester abortion providers passed by the Board of Health in June.  In a memo sent to Health Commissioner Karen Remley, Mr. Cuccinelli claimed that the board overstepped its authority by inserting a “grandfather clause” that exempted existing facilities from the onerous regulations forced through by anti-choice activists.  However, there is nothing in the law that supports Mr. Cuccinelli’s interpretation, and this is yet another example of the Attorney General using his position to advance his anti-abortion crusade.

The Office of the Attorney General has two responsibilities with regard to the adoption of regulations in Virginia.  The first is to serve as that agency’s counsel and provide legal advice during the promulgation of new regulations.  The second is to certify that those regulations are within the agency’s authority.  In no way should the Attorney General’s personal feelings on matters of policy come into play.  The job of the Virginia General Assembly and the various state agencies is to enact policy.  The job of the Attorney General is to provide legal advice to those entities.  If Mr. Cuccinelli wants to have a say in rule-making, he should have never left the state Senate.

The Attorney General claims that the law requires that all clinics must meet the new regulations.  However, Senate Bill 924–which classified abortion clinics as hospitals subject to regulation–does not include this requirement.  It merely adds clinics to the list of facilities that are subject to regulation by the Board of Health.  The law leaves it to the board (comprised mainly of medical professionals) to use their expertise and knowledge to craft rules that will best serve the Commonwealth.  Using this discretion, the board amended the regulations to include only new and renovated facilities, a move that brought the regulations closer to the intent of the experts who wrote the building guidelines as well as keeping with precedent.

Mr. Cuccinelli’s move flies in the face of previous building regulation in Virginia. Typically, all existing facilities are “grandfathered” in and are not subject to new rules.  In fact, the Attorney General’s representative at the June meeting admitted that new regulations have never   been applied to already-constructed buildings.  With neither the law nor precedent supporting his move, Mr. Cuccinelli is clearly taking an activist position and acting solely in the interest of his personal politics.

With the refusal to certify, the regulations will return to the Board of Health to be addressed again – mostly likely in September.  Be sure to contact the board members to encourage them not to submit to political pressure and to once again put medical science and women’s health ahead of personal politics. You can find out more information and many ways to take action at the Virginia Coalition to Protect Women’s Health website.

Forced Ultrasounds In Effect In Virginia

Guest Post by Legal Intern Chris Lewis:

The controversial, unnecessary, and intrusive mandatory ultrasound law is now in effect in the Commonwealth.    Starting this week, any Virginian seeking to exercise her constitutional right to get an abortion must first get an ultrasound, regardless of the medical advice of her doctor.  The law, which was passed over the objections of thousands of Virginians, was signed by anti-choice Governor Bob McDonnell, and enthusiastically endorsed by his sidekick and likely 2013 GOP gubernatorial nominee Ken Cuccinelli.

The law requires that:

  • A woman must undergo a compulsory ultrasound before having an abortion, whether or not her doctor says its necessary or she asks for it.
  • Her doctor must offer her the opportunity to view the image and listen for fetal heart tones – but telling the doctor “no thanks” isn’t a good enough a response. She must sign a refusal form that will then be saved in her medical record for seven years.
  • The ultrasound must be performed at least 24 hours prior to the abortion unless the woman lives 100 miles or more away from her provider. If she lives 99 miles or less away, that means at least two and more likely three appointments on separate days, requiring additional expenses such as taking time off work and paying for additional gas and child care.
  • Can’t afford an ultrasound or your insurance won’t cover it? Anti-choice policymakers will provide you with a list of crisis pregnancy centers – aka fake anti-choice clinics – that will provide you with a free one… while they use misinformation try to pressure you to not have an abortion.

These “crisis pregnancy centers” are especially troublesome.  The Virginia Department of Health provides a list of “no-cost ultrasound services”, but each of the organizations listed is an anti-choice clinic with the primary purpose of discouraging abortion—not providing care for women.  To make matters worse, these clinics needed to only answer six questions to be listed in the government directory, and only two of those questions have anything to do with ensuring that the person performing the ultrasound is in any way competent enough to do so in a safe matter.  In addition, no part of the law requires that the anti-choice clinics give the woman a copy of the ultrasound should she decide to get an abortion from a legitimate clinic.  She may have to start the entire process again!

Governor McDonnell and Attorney General Cuccinelli have exhibited a shocking amount of hypocrisy on this issue.  They claim the onerous TRAP regulations are intended only to ensure the safety of women and the quality of medical care, but have said nothing about making sure the crisis pregnancy centers meet these standards.

After last week’s Supreme Court ruling that affirmed the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act (a law that will bring health care access to thousands of low-income Virginians), McDonnell called the decision a “blow to freedom”.  Yet he and the other anti-choice politicians in the Commonwealth take no issue with putting unnecessary government mandates in between a woman and her doctor.

The ultrasound mandate will impact every woman in Virginia, but the burden will fall especially hard on the at-risk and marginalized communities in the state, including young women, low-income women who are uninsured or under-insured, rural women whose closest provider is far away, and working women with children.  There is no doubt that these women will have to bear significant new costs in order to get an abortion, a right that has been repeatedly asserted by the United State Supreme Court.

Anti-choice politicians need to know that their opinion is not shared by a majority of Virginians.  Please sign our petition and demand that the General Assembly repeal this intrusive law.  And be sure to sign up with our Choice Action Network (CAN) to stay informed about further assaults on reproductive freedom in Virginia.

Most Threatening Requirements Stripped from “TRAP” Regulations by Board of Health

Pro-choice activists attend the Board of Health meeting on June 15, 2012

Some of the pro-choice activists in the audience at the Board of Health’s meeting. (photo credit: Planned Parenthood Advocates of Virginia)

Guest post from our legal intern, Chris Lewis:

Sanity and rationality may have, at least for a little while, returned to Virginia’s government. On Friday, the Board of Health voted to approve permanent regulations on women’s health centers, the targeted regulations on abortion providers (“TRAP”) rules that anti-choice forces in the state have been pushing to limit abortion access for Virginians.

While the passed regulations still include serious threats to the privacy and security of patients and providers, the board voted to insert a “grandfather clause” in the bureaucratic and unnecessary building regulations. Without this clause, the state’s abortion clinics would need to either shut down or undergo costly renovations.

Along with our coalition partner organizations in the Virginia Coalition to Protect Women’s Health with whom we’ve been working to oppose these TRAP regulations over the past year, many parties deserve thanks for helping to protect women’s rights. Nearly 200 abortion rights supporters showed up early Friday to protest the regulations, with dozens of them bringing hand-made signs. About 50 of the supporters voiced their opinion during the public comment period, pointing to the cost the proposed rules would have, as well as their chilling effect on individual liberty.

Board members Jim Edmondson and Anna Jeng passionately assaulted the blatant unfairness of the regulations that would require clinics—some of which have been open for four decades—to meet new building standards, despite the fact that all other existing medical facilities are exempted from new structural regulations.

Representatives of notoriously anti-choice Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli argued that the law calling for clinic regulation, passed by the General Assembly in 2011, was intended to cover both new and existing facilities, but as Edmondson, Jeng, and fellow board member Paul Clements pointed out, there is nothing in the law’s text that supports this extreme view. Clements added that Virginia did not need to “add regulations that are going to make it more difficult for everybody else that does a good job.”

Edmondson, Jeng, and Clements were joined by John DeTriquet, Steven Escobar, and Catherine Slusher in voting for the final amendment that inserted the grandfather clause and helped ensure that access to abortion will not be totally stripped from Virginia women. DeTriquet, Escobar, and Slusher– appointees of anti-choice Governor Bob McDonnell–deserve special praise for voting in the interest of medical science and not personal politics.

Fellow McDonnell appointees Bruce Edwards, Eric Deaton, Mary McCluskey, Gail Taylor, and Amy Vest, however, could not overcome their political biases and voted to make medical access much more difficult and expensive for Virginians.

Friday’s events do not mean that the board meeting was a total victory for pro-choice advocates, or that Cuccinelli-McDonnell attack on women’s rights is over. Amendments to the regulations that would have ensured the protection of patients and clinic owners failed, potentially exposing them to harassment and radical anti-choice violence. Cuccinelli’s representatives virtually assured that their office would reject the regulations as being in violation of their radical interpretation of the law. If the regulations are rejected, they would be returned to the Board of Health where they would face an uncertain future.

With the regulations potentially being heard again at the next board meeting and the terms of three members expiring at the end of the month, it is as important as ever to contact members and demand that they protect a woman’s right to choose and to put science ahead of politics.

You can take action by thanking the Board members who voted to amend the regulations and urging them to stand by this change should the regulations return to the Board.

Stop McDonnell & Cuccinelli’s TRAP scheme

Cross-posted from NARAL Pro-Choice America’s

by Tarina Keene, Executive Director of NARAL Pro-Choice Virginia

Sanity seems to have left the commonwealth of Virginia.

Earlier this year, the country watched with shock and awe as Virginia passed a mandatory ultrasound bill that forces a woman to undergo an ultrasound procedure before receiving an abortion – even if she does not want an ultrasound and even if her doctor thinks it is unnecessary. Now, the Old Dominion – Thomas Jefferson’s commonwealth – is again poised to humiliate women and doctors by shutting off access to safe, legal abortion.

Since the McDonnell Administration and an activist attorney general came into power two and half years ago, the policy making process has been wrought with duplicitous backroom deals and contrived regulations in an effort to ban abortion… and even birth control. So far, they’ve gotten away with it.

This Friday, the Virginia Board of Health will again meet to consider proposed permanent regulations for women’s health centers – what we call “TRAP,” targeted regulations on abortion providers. But don’t be fooled. These proposed regulations have nothing to do with patient care or safety despite what McDonnell and Cuccinelli may purport. They want to force doctors’ offices that provide first trimester abortion – and have been doing so safely for nearly 40 years – to now convert themselves overnight into mini-hospitals, which you may agree is nearly impossible to do! The Board of Health literally is imposing new 2010 hospital construction guidelines on doctors’ offices that have been open and operating for four decades! What this means is that women’s health centers must spend hundreds of thousands if not millions of dollars adding additional toilets, expanding the size of their doors and hallways, increasing treatment rooms to the size of your car garage, making sure there are as many parking spaces as there are beds (even though there are no overnight stays), and expensive, very specific ventilation systems. All this for one of the safest medical procedures performed in the United States today, which generally takes fewer than 10 minutes to complete.

Simply put – if regulations are passed as written with these forced building construction requirements, the majority of the state’s abortion providers may be forced to close putting women’s health and safety at risk.

What does this mean for women? Under the proposed permanent regulations, the 20 women’s health centers that provide safe, affordable early abortion care in Virginia will be forced by the government to comply with overly burdensome, medically unnecessary regulations to just keep their doors open – costs that could be so high that health centers are forced to close their doors entirely. This has a detrimental impact on women’s access to affordable healthcare, especially for young, low-income, uninsured or underinsured, rural and minority women who count on women’s health centers around the state for their primary care. If even one health center closes, that could mean higher costs for women who already struggle to access and pay for healthcare.

We need to bring sanity back to the commonwealth of Virginia and end attacks on women’s health and privacy. Without public action or legislative oversight, Gov. McDonnell and AG Cuccinell will have a free pass to implement the most aggressive laws in the country to impede access to women’s health care and abortion. This overreach of power is unconscionable! But it’s not too late.

The regulations are before the Virginia Board of Health this Friday June 15. If approved through the next stages of the regulatory process, these regulations will become law in early 2013. Please ask each of the 15 BOH members to use their medical expertise – not politics- to make the logical decision to stop this insane attempt to impose politically motivated regulations onto abortion providers. The women of Virginia are counting on them.