(WUSA9) -- Virginians have a few more weeks to weigh in on a debate over abortion clinic regulations. The final public hearing on the issue took place Tuesday in Alexandria.
Opponents say the new rules would force most of the state's 20 remaining clinics to shut down. Those regulations require clinics to meet the same standards as hospitals - a total of 460 new construction guidelines.
Supporters say the regulations are needed to ensure health and safety.
The Board of Health's public comment period ends March 29th.
Senator Barbara Favola gave the following statement to representatives of the State Board of Health at the John Marshall Public Library in Alexandria, Va.:
For almost four decades, Virginia's women's health centers have provided safe, accessible and comprehensive reproductive health care. Virginia's women and families need access to these services.
As responsible decision-makers and advocates for good health, we should want women to have access to cervical cancer screenings, breast cancer screenings, pap smears, sexually transmitted infection testing and treatment, and contraceptive health care. Women also need access to counseling and referrals when they are the victims of rape, incest and sexual abuse. All of these services, and more, are provided at the 21 health centers throughout the State that will be subject to these regulations.
However, the costs associated with meeting the building requirements of the proposed TRAP regulations will be so prohibitive --clinics will be forced to close. Women in many parts of the State will be denied access to basic primary and preventive care. Women will also be denied access to safe and affordable abortions, forcing many to seek back alley procedures that could physically harm them for a lifetime. If we care about improved health outcomes for women and children and if we care about lowering abortion rates, then women need access to the entire range of reproductive health services offered by these centers.
I remind the Board that in1973, Justice Harry Blackmun, in his majority opinion of the U.S. Supreme Court, defended a women's right to make her own personal medical choices, stating: "This right of privacy, whether it be founded in the Fourteenth Amendment's concept of personal liberty and restrictions upon state action, as we feel it is, or, as the District Court determined, in the Ninth Amendment's reservation of rights to the people, is broad enough to encompass a woman's decision whether or not to terminate her pregnancy. The detriment that the State would impose upon the pregnant woman by denying this choice altogether is apparent."
These TRAP regulations are intended to coerce clinic operators and medical personnel into denying women access to safe and legal abortions, even though the right to access such procedures was confirmed by the Supreme Court 40 years ago. There is no medically necessary reason for these new TRAP requirements. What really is going on is politicians are playing politics with women's healthcare. In effect, politicians are denying women the ability to participate equally in the economic and social life of the Nation when women can no longer control their reproductive lives.
Virginians believe that abortion is a deeply personal and often complex decision for a woman and therefore decisions about whether to choose adoption, end a pregnancy, or raise a child must be left to a woman, her family, and her faith, with the counsel of her health care provider.
But these regulations will allow government inspectors to demand a year's worth of patient lists from women's health clinics that perform abortions. This is government intrusion into the most private decisions. Virginians do not want their government interfering in these matters.
You know and I know Thomas Jefferson envisioned a Commonwealth that would embrace a role of limited government;
-- A Commonwealth that respected an individuals' right to privacy;
-- A Commonwealth that was not in the doctor's examination office; and,
- A Commonwealth that did not let politics come between a patient and her
As a former member of the Board of Health, I know that this Board has always considered the facts associated with the allocation of medical resources. You have not been swayed by the "politics" of the day. I implore you to continue to exercise your best professional judgment and not be intimidated by Attorney General Cuccinelli and his far right ideology.
I ask you to not apply the physical requirements contained in the TRAP regulations. Honor your statutory responsibilities and provide a recommendation that improves access to needed health care in the State. Give Virginia's women and families a chance for better and healthier lives.
Thank you for your attention.