VA Regulations Threaten Right to Choose
Last Thursday the Virginia Department of Health approved a series of new regulations that place restrictions on abortion providers. These new rules will impose hospital-type standards, including requirements for new heating and cooling systems, hallways and elevators that can fit a gurney, and new methods of bookkeeping, upon medical offices that provide abortion services. If these new procedures are enacted, the financial burden would force most abortion providers to stop providing these services; it is estimated that 17 out of the 22 abortion providers in Virginia may be forced to close.
These restrictions also promise to severely restrict the availability of general health services, particularly women’s health services. Many Planned Parenthood clinics in Virginia have expressed fear that they will be forced to shut their doors completely; even though abortion services only make up 3 percent of Planned Parenthood’s work, they provide about 15 percent of the organization’s income (a first-trimester abortion can cost anywhere from $300 to $950). Because the bulk of Planned Parenthood’s work is providing essential reproductive health services such as routine physical exams, Pap smears and cancer screenings, the three million women and men who visit a Planned Parenthood center annually stand to lose their fundamental right to access health care services.
Making it nearly impossible for women to access safe and legal abortion services, as well as general reproductive health services, is a de facto mechanism to strip a woman of her right to choose as guaranteed by the Supreme Court’s decision in Roe v. Wade. Furthermore, it reinforces the existing disparity between the wealthy and poor regarding health care options.
Keep an eye out for similar restrictions in other states: A woman’s right to access reproductive health services is under attack across the country, and Virginia is only the latest example. As always, the RAC is here to answer questions and provide resources.
Katharine Nasielski is a 2011-2012 Eisendrath Legislative Assistant.