The Virginia State Board of Health has passed a new set of regulations for abortion clinics. Supporters are saying the new rules will protect women’s health and opponents believe they may force the state’s 20 clinics to close.
Regulations go into effect January 1. The set of new laws include requirements that clinics upgrade their facilities to the standards of hospitals and that they submit to government inspections. Under the new rules, clinics must have five-foot-wide hallways, eight-foot wide areas outside procedure rooms, and specific numbers of toilets, types of sinks and hospital-like air circulation and electrical wiring.
The clinics will also have to provide a parking spot for every bed.
Under the regulations, state authorities can enter a clinic to inspect at any time without notice to examine patient medical records, gather a list of current patients, and interview patients on site potentially violating both patient and provider privacy.
In total, these regulations on first-trimester abortion providers are the strictest seen to date in the nation.
Opponents fear the large expenses some of the regulations require are unnecessary for safety and too costly to remain afloat.
“We consider these to be the most onerous regulations of abortion providers in the country,” said Tarina Keene, director of Naral Pro-Choice Virginia, an abortion rights group in The New York Times. “These are far more reaching than we ever anticipated.”
Family Foundation, pro-life group that promoted the measures, called the approval “a significant pro-life victory” in a statement. "Virginia’s abortion centers now face the choice of either spending their profits on meeting standards or no longer doing abortions at their facilities.”
"Without adequate regulations, there is simply no way for anyone to know what's happened inside these clinics," Chris Freund of the Family Foundation told the health board hearing.
Virginia joins a growing list of states, including Kansas, whose Republican-controlled legislatures have rolled back abortion rights.