News Abortion

Virginia TRAP Regulations Go Into Effect

Robin Marty

Signed into effect in late December after a two-year back-and-forth between the state health board and the vehemently anti-choice governor’s administration, the medically unnecessary requirements will force many clinics to invest significant amounts of money in upgrades and modifications or else close.

Correction, July 2, 12:25 p.m. EST: The first two paragraphs of this article have been corrected to better clarify the legislative process that the regulations went through.

Thursday marks the day when Virginia’s targeted regulation of abortion providers (TRAP) regulations go into effect, potentially limiting access to safe, legal abortion care in the state. Signed into effect in late December after a two-year back-and-forth between the state health board and the vehemently anti-choice governor’s administration, the medically unnecessary requirements will force many clinics to invest significant amounts of money in upgrades and modifications or else close.

Regulations that would allow the state Board of Health to require that the state’s abortion clinics to become ambulatory surgical centers were approved by the state legislature in 2011. When the board authorized the changes, but allowed existing providers to grandfather in without adhering to the new guidelines, Republican Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli rejected the ruling and refused to allow it. Since then, the commissioner left in disgust. Later, new, more radically anti-choice members were appointed, allowing members of the administration to have the regulations they desired—the ones meant to force as many providers as possible out of business.

“After two years of backroom bullying and willful manipulation of the law, Virginia’s anti-choice politicians have officially succeeded in putting an extreme ideology before the health and rights of Virginia women,” Tarina Keene, executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Virginia and co-chair of the Virginia Coalition to Protect Women’s Health, said in a statement. “Governor McDonnell and Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli have spent the last two years playing politics with Virginians’ basic rights and healthcare—and today they are responsible for implementing some of the most extreme state abortion laws in the country. These regulations—like other attempts to chip away at reproductive freedom both here and across the country—are a blatant move to impose a back door ban on safe, legal, abortion care. Because of the callous actions of our governor and attorney general, thousands of Virginia women and families will soon find themselves without access to the critical healthcare they need. It’s a devastating day for the Commonwealth.”

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Even before the law went into effect, anti-choice advocates were seeing their desired outcome. Hillcrest Clinic in Norfolk announced at the end of April that it would be closing after four decades of offering safe abortion care, citing an inability to spend the roughly half a million dollars it would take to bring the clinic into compliance with the new law.

Meanwhile, Falls Church Healthcare Center is suing over the new regulations, arguing that upgrades to the clinic could cost well over $2 million. Attorney David Lasso, who is representing the clinic, told the Virginian Pilot that there is “no logical relationship between those construction rules” and medical science. “You have a body of rules that’s now been turned on its head to apply to existing facilities that already comply with local building codes,” he said.

Reproductive and civil rights advocates agree. “Attorney General Cuccinelli is wrong on the law,” Virginia Coalition to Protect Women’s Health Co-Chair Katherine Greenier, the director of the Patricia M. Arnold Women’s Rights Project at the American Civil Liberties Union of Virginia, said in a statement. “There is nothing in the Virginia Code (or Senate Bill 924, defining abortion providers as hospitals) that requires the Board of Health to impose extensive, burdensome construction requirements that have no relation to the safety of the services that women’s health centers provide. AG Cuccinelli’s forced interpretation of the law in this instance is at odds with every other regulation of health care facilities, and far from consistent with prior interpretations of the law at issue.”

News Politics

Clinton Campaign Announces Tim Kaine as Pick for Vice President

Ally Boguhn

The prospect of Kaine’s selection has been criticized by some progressives due to his stances on issues including abortion as well as bank and trade regulation.

The Clinton campaign announced Friday that Sen. Tim Kaine (R-VA) has been selected to join Hillary Clinton’s ticket as her vice presidential candidate.

“I’m thrilled to announce my running mate, @TimKaine, a man who’s devoted his life to fighting for others,” said Clinton in a tweet.

“.@TimKaine is a relentless optimist who believes no problem is unsolvable if you put in the work to solve it,” she added.

The prospect of Kaine’s selection has been criticized by some progressives due to his stances on issues including abortion as well as bank and trade regulation.

Kaine signed two letters this week calling for the regulations on banks to be eased, according to a Wednesday report published by the Huffington Post, thereby ”setting himself up as a figure willing to do battle with the progressive wing of the party.”

Charles Chamberlain, executive director of the progressive political action committee Democracy for America, told the New York Times that Kaine’s selection “could be disastrous for our efforts to defeat Donald Trump in the fall” given the senator’s apparent support of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). Just before Clinton’s campaign made the official announcement that Kaine had been selected, the senator praised the TPP during an interview with the Intercept, though he signaled he had ultimately not decided how he would vote on the matter.

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Kaine’s record on reproductive rights has also generated controversy as news began to circulate that he was being considered to join Clinton’s ticket. Though Kaine recently argued in favor of providing Planned Parenthood with access to funding to fight the Zika virus and signed on as a co-sponsor of the Women’s Health Protection Act—which would prohibit states and the federal government from enacting restrictions on abortion that aren’t applied to comparable medical services—he has also been vocal about his personal opposition to abortion.

In a June interview on NBC’s Meet the Press, Kaine told host Chuck Todd he was “personally” opposed to abortion. He went on, however, to affirm that he still believed “not just as a matter of politics, but even as a matter of morality, that matters about reproduction and intimacy and relationships and contraception are in the personal realm. They’re moral decisions for individuals to make for themselves. And the last thing we need is government intruding into those personal decisions.”

As Rewire has previously reported, though Kaine may have a 100 percent rating for his time in the Senate from Planned Parenthood Action Fund, the campaign website for his 2005 run for governor of Virginia promised he would “work in good faith to reduce abortions” by enforcing Virginia’s “restrictions on abortion and passing an enforceable ban on partial birth abortion that protects the life and health of the mother.”

As governor, Kaine did support some existing restrictions on abortion, including Virginia’s parental consent law and a so-called informed consent law. He also signed a 2009 measure that created “Choose Life” license plates in the state, and gave a percentage of the proceeds to a crisis pregnancy network.

Regardless of Clinton’s vice president pick, the “center of gravity in the Democratic Party has shifted in a bold, populist, progressive direction,” said Stephanie Taylor, co-founder of the Progressive Change Campaign Committee, in an emailed statement. “It’s now more important than ever that Hillary Clinton run an aggressive campaign on core economic ideas like expanding Social Security, debt-free college, Wall Street reform, and yes, stopping the TPP. It’s the best way to unite the Democratic Party, and stop Republicans from winning over swing voters on bread-and-butter issues.”

News Abortion

Parental Notification Law Struck Down in Alaska

Michelle D. Anderson

"The reality is that some young women face desperate circumstances and potentially violent consequences if they are forced to bring their parents into their reproductive health decisions," said Janet Crepps, senior counsel at the Center for Reproductive Rights. "This law would have deprived these vulnerable women of their constitutional rights and put them at risk of serious harm."

The Alaska Supreme Court has struck down a state law requiring physicians to give the parents, guardians, or custodians of teenage minors a two-day notice before performing an abortion.

The court ruled that the parental notification law, which applies to teenagers younger than 18, violated the Alaska Constitution’s equal protection guarantee and could not be enforced.

The ruling stems from an Anchorage Superior Court decision that involved the case of Planned Parenthood of the Great Northwest and the Hawaiian Islands and physicians Dr. Jan Whitefield and Dr. Susan Lemagie against the State of Alaska and the notification law’s sponsors.

In the lower court ruling, a judge denied Planned Parenthood’s requested preliminary injunction against the law as a whole and went on to uphold the majority of the notification law.

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Planned Parenthood and the physicians had appealed that superior court ruling and asked for a reversal on both equal protection and privacy grounds.

Meanwhile, the State of Alaska and the notification law’s sponsors appealed the court’s decision to strike some of its provisions and the court’s ruling.

The notification law came about after an initiative approved by voters in August 2010. The law applied to “unemancipated, unmarried minors” younger than 18 seeking to terminate a pregnancy and only makes exceptions in documented cases of abuse and medical emergencies, such as one in which the pregnant person’s life is in danger.

Justice Daniel E. Winfree wrote in the majority opinion that the anti-choice law created “considerable tension between a minor’s fundamental privacy right to reproductive choice and how the State may advance its compelling interests.”

He said the law was discriminatory and that it could unjustifiably burden “the fundamental privacy rights only of minors seeking pregnancy termination, rather than [equally] to all pregnant minors.”

Chief Justice Craig Stowers dissented, arguing that the majority’s opinion “unjustifiably” departed from the Alaska Supreme Court’s prior approval of parental notification.

Stowers said the opinion “misapplies our equal protection case law by comparing two groups that are not similarly situated, and fails to consider how other states have handled similar questions related to parental notification laws.”

Center for Reproductive Rights (CRR) officials praised the court’s ruling, saying that Alaska’s vulnerable teenagers will now be relieved of additional burdensome hurdles in accessing abortion care. Attorneys from the American Civil Liberties Union, CRR, and Planned Parenthood represented plaintiffs in the case.

Janet Crepps, senior counsel at CRR, said in a statement that the “decision provides important protection to the safety and well-being of young women who need to end a pregnancy.”

“The reality is that some young women face desperate circumstances and potentially violent consequences if they are forced to bring their parents into their reproductive health decisions. This law would have deprived these vulnerable women of their constitutional rights and put them at risk of serious harm,” Crepps said.

CRR officials also noted that most young women seeking abortion care involve a parent, but some do not because they live an abusive or unsafe home.

The American Medical Association, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, and the Society for Adolescent Medicine have said minors’ access to confidential reproductive health services should be protected, according to CRR.