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FIRST-PERSON: Do they really want to make abortion ‘safe’?

ALEXANDRIA, La. (BP)–State governments regulate pharmacies, veterinary clinics, nursing home facilities, funeral homes and even hair salons. That being true, wouldn’t it be reasonable to expect a state to have common sense standards for medical facilities?

It would seem reasonable that the government would have regulatory oversight over a medical facility that routinely performs a surgical procedure that carries with it possible serious risks.

When the procedure in question is abortion, however, the proponents of the procedure are anything but reasonable.

Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli rendered a legal opinion on Aug. 20 that the Old Dominion State has the authority to regulate, for health reasons, facilities that perform first trimester abortions “so long as the regulations adhere to constitutional limitations.”

In the opinion, Cuccinelli gave the Virginia Board of Health the power, if it chooses, to require abortion providers to meet hospital-like standards.

“The state has long regulated outpatient surgical facilities and personnel to ensure a certain level of protection for patients,” a spokesman for Cuccinelli told the Washington Post. “There is no reason to hold facilities providing abortion services to any lesser standard for their patients.”

If the Board of Health chooses to act upon Cuccinelli’s opinion it could require doctors who perform abortions at facilities to have hospital privileges at a local hospital. Additionally the board could mandate professional training for counselors and require facilities conform to certain structural criteria.

The A.G.’s opinion only applies to facilities performing first trimester abortions. Second and third term abortions are already required to be performed in a hospital.

I read Cuccinelli’s opinion and thought that while not legally binding, it was solid and measured in its reasoning. Even so, abortion proponents went apoplectic.

“This new policy would single out abortion clinics and burden them with onerous and unnecessary restrictions,” NARAL Pro-Choice Virginia said in a press release.

Because Cuccinelli is well-known to be pro-life, abortion-right activists said they were not surprised by the A.G.’s opinion.

“We’ve been waiting for the attorney general to take on abortion providers…” Tarina Keene, executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Virginia, told the Washington Post.

Abortion activists predicted the sky would fall if the Board of Health acted upon Cuccinelli’s opinion. The Washington Post reported that activists indicated “the regulations could prompt the shutdown of 17 of the state’s 21 clinics performing abortions.”

When abortion proponents reject health regulations for clinics — regulations designed to ensure the safety of women — something is terribly wrong with their thinking.

If the Virginia Board of Health does act upon Cuccinelli’s opinion, and I think it should, it will simply require clinics to comply with standards that will facilitate a woman’s safety in case there are complications due to an abortion that results in an emergency situation.

“The potential complications of abortion procedures,” Cuccinelli wrote in his opinion, “include hemorrhage, cervical laceration, uterine perforation, injury to the bowels or bladder and pulmonary complications.

“Furthermore,” Cuccinelli added, “these complications ‘must be immediately and adequately treated.'” The A.G. quotes from the “Manual of Clinical Problems in Obstetrics and Gynecology” to stress just how serious these complications can be.

If a woman experiences any complications, time is of the essence. Being able to get out of a clinic quickly and to a nearby hospital are critical to an injured woman’s survival.

Cuccinelli’s opinion is also based on a precedent established by the U.S. Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals in 2000. The court upheld the state of South Carolina’s right to regulate abortion clinics for health reasons in “Greenville Women’s Clinic v. Bryant.”

The A.G. cited a portion of the Fourth Circuit’s decision. Cuccinelli wrote, “Recognizing that the state has a valid interest ‘from the outset of pregnancy in protecting the health of the woman and the life of the fetus,’ the Court found ‘there is no requirement that a state refrain from regulating abortion facilities until a public-health problem manifests itself.'”

If a state is going to regulate pharmacies, veterinary clinics, nursing home facilities, funeral homes and hair salons on the basis of public health and safety, then they must provide common sense oversight to abortion providers for the same reason.

Abortion activists have long maintained that they want abortion to be “legal, safe and rare.” There is no doubt they want it legal, but given the activists’ apoplectic reaction to the Virginia A.G.’s opinion I wonder how much they care about it being safe and rare.
Kelly Boggs is a weekly columnist for Baptist Press and editor of the Baptist Message (www.baptistmessage.com), newsjournal of the Louisiana Baptist Convention.

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  • Kelly Boggs