A “genuine change of heart”: a behind the scenes look at the Virginia Board of Health vote on abortion clinic regulations

By Dave Andrusko

Virginia Society for Human Life board members Geline B. Williams (far left) and Olivia Gans Turner (center) join women from across the state to gather at the Virginia Board of Health hearing to seek protection for women.

As National Right to Life News Today reported, last Friday the Virginia Board of Health reversed itself and said, yes, a law passed to regulate abortion clinics should include existing abortion clinics, not just new ones.

A law passed in 2011 mandated that abortion clinics be treated like outpatient surgical centers and apply to clinics that provide five or more first-trimester abortions a month. The regulations address such issues as building standards staff training, sanitation, and equipment standards.

In June, following intense lobbying by pro-abortionists, the Board surprisingly decided to grandfather in the existing 20 abortion clinics.  But Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli refused to certify the amended set of regulations, determining that the Board had exceeded its authority, setting up Friday’s vote to reconsider.

Since the previous pro-abortion governor of Virginia, Tim Kaine, appointed five members of the current Board, the overwhelming 13-2 vote must have included at least three of his appointees. But neither the overwhelming margin nor the commonsense position of Mr. Cuccinelli was allowed to interrupt the media narrative: Cuccinelli had “bullied” the Board into changing its position, as part of the “right wing Republican’s” allegedly “radical” agenda.

Oddly enough, the Washington Post’s story on Friday gave space to the reason some of those members changed their vote. In reporter Laura Vozzella’s  story we read

“But some board members said they’d had a genuine change of heart after the board voted 7 to 4 in June to give clinics a reprieve.

“’I regretfully admit I was operating under a lot of confusion’ in June, said M. Catherine Slusher, a physician appointed by Gov. Robert F. McDonnell (R). ‘It’s not a matter of personal preferences. It’s a matter of the General Assembly has passed a law, and it’s up to us to create the regulations that abide with that law.’

“Rather than capitulation to Cuccinelli and McDonnell, antiabortion activist Leslie Davis Blackwell saw the about-face as a ‘Saint Paul moment’— an epiphany like the one she had a few years ago after 30 years of abortion-rights activism. She addressed the gathering to say she’d had two abortions as a young woman and now deeply regrets them.”

Olivia Gans Turner, the President of the Virginia Society for Human Life  (VSHL) was in attendance at Friday’s meeting. “We are grateful that the members of the Board of Health recognized the importance of these new regulations and will allow them to be enforced universally on all abortion facilities in the Commonwealth of Virginia,” Turner said. “The vote Friday restores the intention of the Virginia General Assembly’s statute as passed in 2011.”

During the public comment portion of the day 30 men and women spoke (split evenly, pro-life and pro-abortion) Over 200 people had been allowed into the building to sit in the hearing rooms.  Outside close to another 200 people used signs and song to give voice to the side they were on. 

Once again, the crowd seemed fairly evenly split, according to Turner.  “Efforts by pro-life groups, including Virginia Society for Human Life had brought pro-life supporters from throughout the state to give witness,” Turner told NRL News Today

Inside, several of those who opposed making the regulations apply to existing abortion clinics spoke against Attorney General’s efforts to remind the Board of Health that they did not have the authority to override the directions of the General Assembly’s law.  Several speakers referred to Cuccinelli as a “bully.”

“Fortunately, more than one Board member made it very clear that they had felt no pressure from either Gov. Bob McDonnell’s office or AG Cuccinelli,” Turner explained.  “In their own words, they were acting on the best interests of the safety of the citizens of Virginia.”

After the vote, a loud outburst of disappointment was orchestrated by the pro-abortion forces. About 20 of those in the hearing room jumped up on chairs and waved signs shouting “Shame, Shame” and ”the Board of Health hates Women.” Turner said they were promptly escorted from the area.

The constant mantra from pro-abortionists was that the regulations were so onerous, so expensive its real goal was not protecting women’s health but driving all abortion clinics out of business.

But “All 20 of the state’s clinics have applied for licensing, and 12 have been granted licenses after submitting plans to correct deficiencies ranging from corridors or doorways being too narrow or having inadequate hand-wash and service sinks,” said State Health Commissioner Karen Remley, the Washington Times reported. “None have indicated an intention to close.”

Turner explained, however, that even if the regulations are finally adopted, “Abortion is always a dangerous procedure. It always ends the life of an unborn baby and often causes permanent harm or death to the mothers of these children.” Abortion is big business in Virginia, as it is across the USA, and abortion providers, like Planned Parenthood, will accommodate any rules placed upon them in order to stay in business, she noted.

“Therefore, the Pro-Life Movement must continue to work for laws that will directly protect the lives of unborn children,” Turner said. “Ultimately it is the passage of protective laws, like the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act that will provide the best way to save lives.”

Your feedback is very important to improving National Right to Life News Today. Please send your comments to daveandrusko@gmail.com. If you like, join those who are following me on Twitter at http://twitter.com/daveha