On Friday, June 15 the Virginia Board of Health (BOH) voted to amend a key provision of the proposed permanent regulations on already existing women’s health centers in Virginia. These regulations are a part of the Targeted Regulations of Abortion Providers (TRAP) laws that have been popping up in states across the country that would require only abortion clinics to meet hospital facility standards. As a result of the vote by the Virginia BOH, already existing abortion clinics will be “grandfathered in,” and not be forced to meet the building standards for new buildings, while future clinics will be forced to adhere to the construction standards for hospitals.
The original 7-4 vote was met with cheers and applause from the women’s health advocates, who had protested the passing of the permanent laws throughout the meeting. The argument against the architectural mandates was led by James Edmondson, Jr and Dr. Anna Jeng of the Board. Despite a call for a re-vote by board member Dr. Mary McCluskey, who then voted against us, the architectural amendment was struck down 6-5.
During the public comment period, a total of ten medical professionals spoke in opposition to the TRAP laws. They said the unnecessary regulations would leave thousands of Virginia women without access to health care. Other speakers called attention to the comments made by Attorney General Cuccinelli, stating that the purpose of the TRAP laws was to “make abortion disappear in Virginia.” Debra Miller, a FMF intern, spoke about how these regulations would affect young women in their twenties like her. Stephanie, a pre-med student, went so far as to say, “I am looking at fifteen women in front of me. Statistically, it is likely that five of you have had an abortion.” Only eight people spoke in favor of the TRAP laws, and they all used religious arguments despite the secular nature of the debate.
While Virginia women should celebrate this victory, we must all remember that the fight is not over. The remaining proposed TRAP regulations must be approved by both Attorney General Cuccinelli and Governor McDonnell before they can go into effect. Even with the concession granted on Friday, these laws are still an attack on the reproductive rights of Virginia women. As our protest coat hangers proudly declared, “WE WON’T GO BACK!”