September 16, 2011 — The Virginia Board of Health on Thursday approved regulations for abortion clinics that some abortion-rights advocates said could force many facilities to close. The regulations require existing women’s health centers to come into compliance with three chapters of a manual called the 2010 Guidelines for Design and Construction of Health Care Facilities within the next two years. The regulations were issued under a Virginia law (SB 924) that took effect on July 1 and require the Board of Health to create new standards for all clinics that perform at least five first-trimester abortions per month.
During the hearing, the board adopted four amendments to protect health records, decrease the number of inspections, lower the fee for clinics for the first year and mandate that inspectors identify themselves.
The Department of Health and testimony by abortion opponents asserted that the regulations were framed, in part, on regulations in place in South Carolina, which were upheld by the U.S. Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals. However, that is misleading. The American Civil Liberties Union of Virginia testified that the draft regulations would endanger women by imposing a regime of unprecedented severity. No state has ever passed, and no court has ever upheld, such burdensome regulations.
The temporary regulations are being sent to Gov. Bob McDonnell for review. If he approves them, they will take effect on Jan. 1, 2012, for one year, after which they will be replaced by permanent regulations.