On Friday, the Virginia Board of Health voted 11-to-4 in support of targeted regulation of abortion provider (TRAP) measures that would force all abortion clinics in the state to make expensive, medically unnecessary renovations that could ultimately result in the clinics shutting their doors, further limiting safe abortion access for Virginians.
The regulations will force clinics that perform abortions in the first trimester to modify their facilities in several ways, by expanding parking lots and widening hallways, for example. Reproductive rights advocates point out that the board does not require such standards for other outpatient medical facilities or existing hospitals in the state.
The Washington Post reports that the TRAP decision has “taken unexpected twists and turns since the General Assembly voted in 2011 to regulate abortion clinics like outpatient surgical centers.” Indeed, Rewire‘s Robin Marty reported in January that Republican Gov. Robert McDonnell signed a version of the TRAP bill after “a long back and forth”:
The TRAP law was previously approved by the Virginia Board of Health with a clause that would allow current clinics to be grandfathered in and avoid the new standards. However, after a refusal by the state Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli to sign the revised bill and a shakeup in appointments to the Board, that clause was removed in September under intense pressure from Cuccinelli, once again subjecting even existing clinics to the new, unnecessary, and exacting standards.
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The TRAP measures are now headed back to AG Cuccinelli and Gov. McDonnell for “final review,” according to the Post. McDonnell is expected to sign the measures into law. Then, the state’s 20 abortion clinics that are the target of the rules would have a year to become compliant.
“Now because of Gov. McDonnell and Attorney General Cuccinelli, Virginia is one step closer to losing many women’s health centers that have exemplary records of providing safe first-trimester abortion and reproductive health care, some of them for decades,” said Caroline O’Shea, deputy director of NARAL Pro-Choice Virginia, in a statement. “That means thousands of Virginia women, particularly low-income women, will lose affordable access not only to abortion care but to the comprehensive services like family planning and well-women care that these centers provide.”