Another clash expected as Virginia Board of Health revisits controversial decision
By Dave Andrusko
On Friday the Virginia Board of Health will revisit its controversial decision to exclude existing abortion clinics from regulations formulated to implement a new law that treats abortion facilities like hospitals.
The surprise 7-4 decision to include only new abortion clinics came down June 15, following a lobbying barrage by pro-abortionists. In July the office of Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli sent a memo to State Health Commissioner Karen Remley, refusing to certify the regulations, saying the Board exceeded its statutory authority in exempting existing abortion clinics from the new law.
The regulations apply to clinics that provide five or more first-trimester abortions a month. In addition to requiring that abortion clinics meet hospital-type standards mandating the size of exam rooms and the width of hallways, the regulations also establish new requirements for inspections, medical procedures and record-keeping.
“We’re not saying we don’t want to be regulated,” Shelley Abrams, executive director of A Capital Women’s Health Clinic, told the Associated Press. “We’re saying the architectural standards are unneeded and are not for public safety, but are intended to try to shut us down.”
Not so, according to Virginia pro-lifers. “The loud and angry resistance to these much needed regulations is evidence that abortion providers, such Virginia League for Planned Parenthood and NARAL Pro-choice Virginia, are not concerned with the safety of the women who seek their services,” said Olivia Gans Turner, President of the Virginia Society for Human Life. “Abortion is big business in Virginia. Women and their unborn babies, who die in every abortion, pay the highest cost! The women of Virginia are waiting for the Board of Health to look out for their protection, not abortionists.”
In a letter to members of the Board of Health, dated September 10, Attorney General Cuccinelli reiterated the basis on which he refused to certify the regulations. The key point of contention, obviously, was to exclude existing abortion clinics from the regulations.
Cuccinelli formulated the question this way: “Can the Board [of Health] adopt a grandfather provision that would exempt entities currently operating that now meet the definition of an ‘abortion facility’ from the minimum standards adopted by the Board pursuant to [the statute]?”
His one word summary answer was “No.” Cuccinelli backed that up by noting that the Legislature had not provided for an exemption and cited a Virginia Supreme Court decision that held that only the Legislature (not a state agency) “can unilaterally modify the grandfather clause.”
The Friday meeting will come two days after a pro-life Virginia group secured three inspection reports, obtained under the state’s Freedom of Information Act. According to the AP, reports on “nine clinics listed 80 violations on issues including infection prevention, drug storage and dispensing, poor equipment maintenance and no background checks for employees.”
A Tidewater Women’s Health Clinic in Norfolk was cited for “a number of sanitary issues, including the spilled blood and conception matter in the freezer,” the AP reported. The following three paragraphs from the story speak for themselves:
“’It does paint kind of an ugly picture,’ the clinic’s medical director, Dr. David Peters, said in a telephone interview. ‘People are going to envision these little babies lying in the bottom of the freezer, but they’re not.’
“He said the clinic only does first-trimester abortions, and the ‘products of conception’ have to be stored until they can be picked up by a hazardous waste company for proper disposal, just as a plastic surgeon would have to store fat extracted by liposuction. He said a bag just happened to burst, creating the mess in the freezer.
“’The freezer was 10 yards away from any patient contact,’ he said.”
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