On Thursday, the Virginia Board of Health will meet to hear public comment and vote on whether to move forward with proposed changes to the regulations for licensure for abortion facilities. The regulations, which are mandated by a 2011 law, are commonly known as Targeted Restrictions on Abortion Providers or TRAP and single out abortion providers with politically motivated restrictions designed to shut down clinics and limit access to abortion. During the written public comment period, advocates submitted more than 3,100 comments urging the Board of Health to enact regulations that treat abortion providers the same as medical facilities and comply with Supreme Court precedent.
Allowing politicians, who designed these TRAP laws to restrict people’s access to abortion, sets a dangerous precedent. Medically-unnecessary restrictions on abortion providers harm Virginians by further stigmatizing their reproductive health and limiting their access to quality, affordable health care, of which abortion care is a part. The majority of Americans agree that when a woman has decided to have an abortion, she should be able to do so safely, affordably, and in her community.
“Each and every Virginia woman needs to have access to the full range of reproductive healthcare services, but for the last seven years, that access has been severely restricted solely based on politics and ideology. On Thursday, the Board of Health has another opportunity to lift some of the most burdensome restrictions and make it easier for a woman who has decided to have an abortion to do so,” said Tarina Keene, Executive Director of NARAL Pro-Choice Virginia. “We urge members of the Board to amend these onerous, medically unnecessary regulations and bring them in line with actual science and medicine. First trimester abortion care is one of the safest medical procedures available and that medical reality must be reflected in the amended regulations. We will not rest until a Virginia woman can fully access abortion safely where she lives and free from shame and stigma.”
“At Planned Parenthood, we know firsthand how politically motivated restrictions make it more difficult for our patients to access safe, legal abortion,” said Paulette McElwain, President and CEO, Planned Parenthood Advocates of Virginia. “Extreme politicians in Virginia have spent years trying to shut off access to reproductive health care by using medically unnecessary and politically motivated restrictions. Targeted restrictions of abortion providers are part of an agenda to ban abortion outright, as we’ve seen similar politicians advance legislation to outlaw abortion and criminalize doctors across the country. Restrictions based on politics rather than medicine have no place in Virginia, and we urge the Board of Health to eliminate them and protect access to safe, legal abortion.”
“Politically motivated sham restrictions have only ever been about backdoor attempts to end abortion access. We encourage the Board of Health to protect access to safe and legal abortion by eliminating restrictions that serve no medical purpose. Attempts to shut down abortion providers have no place in Virginia,” Anna Scholl, Executive Director of Progress Virginia, said. “We’ll continue to fight to ensure that everyone, regardless of income, zip code, skin color, or gender identity, can access abortion when they need it so we all have the opportunity to thrive.”
- In 2011, the Virginia General Assembly passed legislation mandating the Board of Health single out and regulate first-trimester abortion providers like hospitals.
- The Board of Health subsequently adopted radical sham restrictions designed to shutter abortion providers under pressure from right-wing conservatives led by Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli and The Family Foundation.
- In October 2016, the Board of Health amended the politically motivated sham restrictions to bring Virginia law into compliance with the landmark 2016 United States Supreme Court decision, Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt.
- In April 2017, The Family Foundation, a notoriously anti-woman, extremely religiously conservative group, filed a lawsuit against the McAuliffe administration claiming that the Board of Health failed to follow proper procedure in repealing the TRAP laws.
- The judge invalidated the October 2016 Board of Health decision and the process is starting over again.