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Va. Health Commissioner Recommends Overhaul of Abortion Clinic Restrictions

October 2, 2014 — Virginia Health Commissioner Marissa Levine on Wednesday suggested that the state overhaul the abortion clinic regulations passed under former Gov. Bob McDonnell (R), the Washington Post's "Virginia Politics" reports (Portnoy, "Virginia Politics," Washington Post, 10/1).

Background

Virginia's rules specify various building standards -- such as exam room size, hallway width and ceiling height -- and create new requirements for inspections, recordkeeping and medical procedures. The rules were written to specifically apply to health centers that provide abortion services.

In May, Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D) appointed five abortion-rights supporters to the state Board of Health and ordered the board to conduct a review, which began in June with a 45-day public comment period (Women's Health Policy Report, 7/31).

Recommendations

Levine in a letter to McAuliffe said that the regulations received more than 14,000 comments, the majority of which called for the repeal of the rules (AP/Sacramento Bee, 10/1). However, Levine wrote that the board does not have the authority to repeal the rules.

Levine instead recommended that the state modify provisions regarding clinic construction and design, better align rules for storing and dispensing drugs with state code, and clarify rules requiring parental consent for abortion. She also said standards for medical testing, lab services, emergencies and anesthesia should be improved.

According to "Virginia Politics," the board will vote on the recommendations on Dec. 4 ("Virginia Politics," Washington Post, 10/1).

Reaction

Tarina Keene, executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Virginia, said her organization is "thrilled with Commissioner Levine's decision today to put medicine before politics and amend these dangerous restrictions" (AP/Sacramento Bee, 10/1).

Meanwhile, Family Foundation of Virginia President Victoria Cobb said, "We look forward to the Board of Health strengthening the standards in the areas the commissioner has [said] have proven to be seriously deficient in nearly every abortion center in Virginia" ("Virginia Politics," Washington Post, 10/1).