Virginia Approves Controversial Building Codes for Abortion Clinics

4:19 PM, Apr 12, 2013   |    comments
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RICHMOND, Va. (WUSA9) -- There was a major setback on Friday for supporters of abortion-rights in Virginia.  The State Board of Health approved strict, hospital-style building codes for abortion clinics, and operators say it could force many of them to close.  

The hearing took place Friday morning in Richmond, where opponents of the new regulations argued that board members are putting politics before medicine.  

"Blood on your hands!" shouted opponents of the new regulations after the board voted 11-2  in favor of them.  

"I wish it had turned out differently, but it's no surprise," said James Edmondson from McLean, one of the two board members who voted against the regulations.  "My concern from the beginning has been access.  I don't want to see any of them close."


Edmondson and other opponents fear at least some of the state's 20 abortion clinics will close due to the expensive, hospital-grade improvements that the new regulations require. 


"These regulations were designed and have been implemented with one purpose: to shut down women's health centers and restrict access to safe, legal, and affordable health care for Virginia's women," testified one opponent during the hearing.  


But supporters say the improvements, which include larger hallways and hospital-grade ceilings, are about patient-safety and quality of care.


"We keep hearing that these regulations are onerous and expensive, and we say Virginia women are worth it," said a supporter of the regulations.


Friday's vote comes after almost two-years of debate on this issue.  In June, the board voted to grandfather existing clinics from the new requirements.  But three-months later, they reversed their decision after republican Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli informed the board that his office would likely not defend them in any litigation. 


When WUSA9 asked Edmondson how much politics played a part in Friday's vote, he replied, "99.99%"

The regulations will now go to Governor Bob McDonnell and Attorney General Cuccinelli for a final review.  They could be enacted as early as the end of May. 

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