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Virginia Board of Health Protects Women’s Access to Constitutionally Protected Health Care, Votes to Amend Texas-style Clinic Shutdown Regulations

Vote comes less than three months after Supreme Court issues historic ruling reaffirming a woman’s right to safe, legal abortion

(PRESS RELEASE) The Virginia Board of Health voted 11-4 today to amend the state’s Texas-style clinic shutdown regulations in light of the Supreme Court’s historic ruling in Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt.  Specifically, the board voted to remove the hospital-like physical plant requirements in the regulations, ensuring Virginia women have access to safe and legal abortion when they have made the decision to end a pregnancy.

With today’s vote, Virginia is the first state to take the historic step of implementing the Whole Woman’s Health decision through a legislative or administrative body.  The impact of the Whole Women’s Health decision--which reaffirmed a woman’s constitutional right to access abortion and made clear that states cannot pass sham restrictions on abortion—has been reverberating across the nation over the past few months.  Less than one day after issuing their ruling in Whole Woman’s Health, the Supreme Court refused to review similar clinic shutdown laws from Mississippi and Wisconsin; since then, courts in states ranging from Arizona to Oklahoma have protected a woman’s ability to get safe and legal abortion without political interference. 

“Virginia is the first in the nation to boldly act on the Supreme Court’s landmark decision in Whole Woman’s Health and take steps to roll back sham laws restricting  women's ability to access safe and legal abortion,” said Amanda Allen, Senior State Legislative Counsel at the Center for Reproductive Rights.  “We commend the Virginia Board of Health for taking this critical first step.  Politicians around the country should take notice and follow suit to expand women's access to health care.”

The amended regulations are expected to be finalized by the Virginia Board of Health later this year.

Between 2011 and 2013caving to extreme political pressure and scare tactics from the former governor and attorney generalthe Virginia Board of Health promulgated regulations that unfairly targeted abortion providers to meet excessive building standards, against 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.  Since then, the Board has taken significant steps to improve the regulations, including voting last year to amend the regulations to allow current clinics that have been offering safe and high-quality care to remain open and offer services in their existing buildings and remove the medically unnecessary requirement that clinics have a transfer agreement with a local hospital. 

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