WASHINGTON (BP) — The Virginia Board of Health has voted 12-1 for emergency regulations requiring abortion clinics to meet hospital-type health and safety standards.
The regulations will govern abortion clinics for as much as 18 months before permanent rules are put into place.
The law giving rise to the regulations — the first in the nation to mandate such regulations for clinics performing first-trimester abortions — was enacted in March. Pro-choice advocates protested that 17 of the state’s abortion clinics could be closed by the resultant regulations.
Among their stipulations, the rules adopted Sept. 15 permit unannounced inspections and require doctors to stay at clinics until women who have undergone abortions are discharged. They also include requirements for the size of hallways and rooms, improved sanitary conditions and the presence of emergency medical equipment.
“After over two decades of avoiding oversight, Virginia’s abortion centers now face the choice of either spending their profits on meeting standards or no longer doing abortions at their facilities,” according to a blog post by the Family Foundation, a pro-life organization in Virginia.
The 13 board members voting on the regulations consisted of nine appointed by current Gov. Robert McDonnell, a pro-life Republican, and four selected by former Gov. Timothy Kaine, a pro-choice Democrat, according to The Washington Post. The lone vote against the rules came from a Kaine appointee.
The rules will take effect Jan. 1 if approved by McDonnell.
The state health department’s release of the proposed rules in late August elicited complaints that they are expensive and unnecessary, with Jessica Honke, director of public policy for Planned Parenthood Advocates of Virginia, describing them as “extensive, significant physical plant requirements.”
“To make the changes could be upwards in the million of dollars,” Honke said, according to the Richmond Times-Dispatch.
Victoria Cobb, president of the pro-life Virginia Family Foundation, said, “While the abortion industry alleges that regulations will close down clinics, Virginians understand that Planned Parenthood, the nation’s largest abortion provider, is a $1 billion business.
“They have the money to ensure that their abortion centers are for women, now they’ll have to decide whether they want to spend their money on women’s safety or continue spending it on trying to get pro-abortion politicians elected,” Cobb said, the Times-Dispatch reported.
Reported by Tom Strode, Washington bureau chief for Baptist Press.