(PRESS RELEASE) Caving under intense political pressure from the governor and attorney general, the Virginia Board of Health voted today to require existing reproductive health care providers to comply with new hospital construction standards—a dramatic departure from its earlier decision to allow the clinics to continue providing care in their current facilities.
With the Board of Health voting 13 to 2 in favor of the proposed permanent regulations, several clinics across the state will be threatened with closure in the near future unless they can undertake massive and medically unjustified renovations just to stay open.
Today's vote comes three months after the board rejected the same onerous regulations, a decision that was in line with the board's own advisory panel recommendations and evidence that the new construction standards did nothing to advance women's health and would impede access to care for many Virginians.
Yet Governor Bob McDonnell and Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli continued their efforts to force all clinics to comply with these unwarranted regulations-including Attorney General Cuccinelli's refusal to certify the regulations adopted by the board in June, essentially directing the board to reverse its vote.
"Not a single other type of health care provider in Virginia has been subjected to this level of political bullying and government interference," said Michelle Movahed, a staff attorney at the Center for Reproductive Rights.
"These unwarranted requirements specifically target reproductive health care providers-many of which have been serving Virginia women and families for roughly 40 years-with regulations that have no medical purpose. It forces these health care providers to choose between incurring backbreaking costs or shutting their doors. Either way, it's the women of Virginia who will suffer the consequences."
The Center for Reproductive Rights submitted written testimony to the board outlining that state and federal courts have blocked similarly extreme abortion regulations from taking effect, including a recent court order in the Center's legal challenge to Kansas's unconstitutional licensing scheme for abortion providers.
The regulations passed today will now move through a multi-stage process, including approval from Governor McDonnell and another round of public comments.