Mon., Sept., 17, 2012; 10:53 PM by Mallory Noe-Payne, news editor, Collegiate Times
Abortion rights supporters have described the regulations as unnecessary and cumbersome, and a political tactic for minimizing access to abortion clinics.
In a 13-2 vote, members of the board reversed an earlier decision, which would have exempted existing buildings from the regulations previously applied only to new construction.
Anti-abortion defendants have applauded the board’s decision, although some board members deny the rules have any political agenda, instead saying regulations are only for ensuring health and safety.
“The primary purpose of the regulations is to ensure there is a safe, clean, healthy environment in which these procedures are performed for these women.” said Bruce Edwards, Chair of the Virginia State Board of Health.
The regulations require Virginia clinics that provide five or more abortions a month upgrade their facilities to meet hospital standards. These upgrades would include wider hallways and larger operating rooms, now the norm for new construction. Additionally, it affects the number of parking spaces available.
Olivia Babis, the southwest Virginia field coordinator for Planned Parenthood, said while Planned Parenthood is by no means anti-regulation, these particular rules are purposefully onerous, having “absolutely nothing to do with patient safety.”
“It is designed to shut down facilities performing abortions, there are no other purposes to it,” Babis said. Edwards, who is also the representative on the Board for Emergency Medical Services, disagrees.
“It is aimed at ensuring that things are sized properly so that good care can be provided to these patients,” Edwards said. “It’s important for me to be able to get all the way around the patient.
“I’ve been in small examining rooms… it’s often times difficult to get in there, particularly if the patient is not doing well.”
Blacksburg’s Planned Parenthood provides medical abortions during the first trimester, meaning it prescribes an oral medication inducing a miscarriage. Despite not performing any surgical
procedures, the facility will be subject to these new regulations.
Planned Parenthood in Blacksburg provided 160 medical abortions in 2011. Planned Parenthood in Roanoke, which provides surgical abortions as well as medical, provided 846 abortions in 2011.