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Necessary and reasonable

Virginia pro-lifers urge support of proposed abortion facilities rules

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Necessary and reasonable

The pro-life Family Foundation of Virginia is urging residents to contact the Virginia Department of Health to support proposed abortion clinic regulations, released Friday, that were mandated by the General Assembly earlier this year.

A new law requires the Virginia Board of Health to regulate abortion facilities in the same fashion as hospitals, beginning in January. Abortion clinics currently follow far less stringent rules designed for doctors' offices. The Board will vote on the proposed regulations on Sept. 15.

The draft regulations require the clinics to obtain a patient's "informed written consent" for an abortion. Doctors must stay on site until patients are ready to be discharged. The regulations also set standards for management, record-keeping, staffing, patient complaint procedures and infection prevention. The regulations spell out in some detail the types of equipment and supplies that must be maintained, including building standards such as the sizes of doorways and hallways. The regulations also authorize unannounced inspections by Board officials.

Abortion-rights supporters have long complained that stringent regulations could force up to 17 of the state's 21 abortion facilities to close by requiring cost-prohibitive renovations and retrofitting.

"We're disappointed the Virginia Department of Health apparently has ignored sound science and drafted regulations designed to limit access to safe, legal abortions," said Jessica Honke, public policy director for Planned Parenthood Advocates of Virginia. "Rather than protect women's health, the regulations could endanger women because they could limit access to safe abortion by driving legitimate providers out of practice, which could place the health of women in Virginia in jeopardy."

However, Chris Freund, Vice President of the Family Foundation of Virginia, said that the new regulations are reasonable and necessary. "No one really knows what's going on in those places," he said. "This is the one way health officials can keep track of what's happening."

And the structural mandates are justified, he said. For example, hallways need to be wide enough to accommodate emergency responders if a patient's life is threatened. Abortion facilities can get a waiver from the state for some of the more expensive structural changes, such as the size of operating rooms, if they can convince authorities that the changes are unwarranted.

Abortion, Freund added, is a billion-dollar industry nationwide and organizations like Planned Parenthood can well afford to make the changes these regulations require. "They simply have to choose if they are going to spend their resources on women's health care instead of political campaigns." Similar regulations in South Carolina have already passed constitutional muster in the Fourth Circuit federal court.

He suspects that abortion providers are actually far more concerned about the surprise inspections, licensing, and record-keeping requirements. He points out that the owner of two Virginia abortion facilities had his medical license suspended in New Jersey earlier this year. "I think it's worth knowing what's really going on," he said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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Les Sillars

Les is a WORLD Radio correspondent and commentator. He previously spent two decades as WORLD Magazine’s Mailbag editor. Les directs the journalism program at Patrick Henry College in Purcellville, Va.

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