Yes, the legal battle over the fate of Virginia’s abortion clinics is ongoing. In this radio broadcast, Richmond’s own Open Source RVA interviews Molly Vick, cofounder and director of Oppose TRAP about the latest developments in the struggle to retain reproductive rights in the state.
Archive for abortion
An officially filed request to the Virginia Department of Health to amend existing Regulations for Licensure of Hospitals – which is essentially a legal challenge to force all hospitals to make the same architectural changes being forced on abortion providers – has received over 125 public comments in the first two weeks. This is the latest chapter in a long, controversial battle over the regulation of women’s health clinics that is heading into its third year.
Surprisingly, the legal petition appears to be directly supported by a legal opinion from Ken Cuccinelli’s office at the June 2012 State Board of Health meeting, where his Senior Assistant Attorney General, Allyson Tysinger suggested that the same regulation amendments be made. If applied, this would put Cuccinelli in the difficult position of explaining to almost every hospital (of all types) in the state that they must make extremely costly architectural upgrades or close their doors.
Fortunately for the Attorney General’s Office, the official transcription notes from the June meeting have mysteriously disappeared. Pro-choice policy group Oppose TRAP discovered that the notes had gone missing after filing a Freedom of Information Act request. The minutes – which are a public, summarized version of the missing notes – do state that “Ms. Tysinger also advised the Board that the hospital licensure regulation will have to be amended because of inconsistencies with 32.12-127.001,” reflecting Oppose TRAP’s legal challenge almost verbatim.
After the Board of Health voted to grandfather existing abortion clinics into regulations for “designing and constructing new health care facility projects”, Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli threatened to withhold legal counsel and representation from the board, claiming they had no authority to do so. When it was pointed out that these are not new facilities, and in some cases have been in safe operation for decades, the Attorney General’s Office declared that they were new hospitals because the 2011 legislation newly defined them as hospitals.
Since that time, a researcher with Oppose TRAP discovered the first Rules and Regulations Governing Licensure of General Hospitals in an unprocessed box of files at an off-site archive of the Library of Virginia; these regulations did grandfather in newly defined hospitals without requiring them to meet the same standards as newly constructed facilities.
Comments by medical professionals on the petition filed by Oppose TRAP (and seemingly supported by the Attorney General’s office) range from concern over credibility of the State to concern over selective application of the law:
“At the present time, the integrity of the Board of Health , the Attorney General , the Governor and the legislature is being called into question… Unless we revisit this issue in an independent way where the BOH can makes it’s decisions free from political pressure, then the BOH as well as the AG’s office will lose all credibility.” – Kenneth Olshansky, M.D. Physician
“There is no legitimate reason to impose a different interpretation of the law, mandating onerous new construction standards on health care facilities that have been shown to safely provide first trimester abortion care to Virginia women for 40 years, especially when no other existing entity is required to meet those standards.” – Wendy Klein, MD, FACP
“No other health care facility has been forced to rebuild its existing structure to comply with these Guidelines, even though Virginia Code § 32.1-127.001 applies to hospitals, nursing homes, hospice centers, and outpatient surgical facilities… Our Governor and Attorney General think that a double standard is okay when it comes to women’s health. Women and the Commonwealth deserve better.” – Ike Koziol, MD
More information can be found with Oppose TRAP:
A vignette of what happened inside and outside the September 14th Virginia Board of Health meeting as they were directed by Ken Cuccinelli to rule that new, unnecessary regulations could be used to shut down existing abortion facilities.
After mandatory, penetrative ultrasound and “personhood” bills are introduced and a peaceful candlelight vigil is stalked by a machine-gun-toting SWAT team, Virginia women stage civil disobedience on the steps of the capitol.