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Va. Abortion Facilities Renew Licenses Amid Clinic Regulation Debate

June 8, 2015 — During a meeting about abortion clinic building requirements on Thursday, the Virginia Board of Health announced that all 18 abortion clinics in Virginia have renewed their licenses for the next year, WTOP reports (Smith, WTOP, 6/4).

According to ABC 8 News, the board could make a decision regarding the building requirements in September (Tenia, ABC 8 News, 6/4).

Background

Virginia's rules, passed under former Gov. Bob McDonnell (R), specify various building standards, including exam room size, hallway width and ceiling height. The rules were written to specifically apply to health centers that provide abortion services.

During the regulatory process to implement the rules, the Virginia Board of Health initially voted to grandfather in pre-existing clinics so they would not be subject to the new design and construction standards. However, the state Board of Health reversed its decision after then-Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli (R) in an opinion told the board that the rules should apply to pre-existing facilities.

The rules went into effect in June 2013. In addition to the design and construction regulations, the rules also created new requirements for inspections, recordkeeping and medical procedures for health centers that provide abortion services.

According to abortion-rights supporters, the rules have resulted in the closure of two Virginia clinics and imposed unnecessary costs on abortion providers with the aim of shuttering more clinics. In addition, one clinic stopped providing abortion services after the passage of the initial rules.

Of the 18 clinics remaining in the state, five completed construction to be in compliance with the regulations. Meanwhile, 13 clinics have been granted exemptions to have more time to be in compliance with the regulations.

In May, state Attorney General Mark Herring (D) in a legal opinion said the building clinic standards cannot apply to pre-existing facilities (Women's Health Policy Report, 5/5).

Meeting Details

During the meeting on Thursday, the state's Board of Health said all of the state's clinics had renewed their licenses.

According to the state's head of licensing, those clinics include the 13 facilities with temporary exemptions from the building rules, which will be permitted to continue operating through at least April 2016 (WTOP, 6/4).

Further, a report from the state health department found that complaints filed against abortion clinics in the state had decreased between 2012 and 2015, with only one complaint filed since the state's Board of Health meeting in March (ABC 8 News, 6/4).

Comments

Cianti Stewart-Reid, executive director at Planned Parenthood Advocates of Virginia, voiced concerns about the debated regulations. "We aren't against regulations, we are against medically-unnecessary regulations," she said (NBC 29, 6/4).

Similarly, Kris Kennedy, an obstetrician, said, "We're seeing proven metrics that show that abortion facilities throughout the state are very safe" (ABC 8 News, 6/4).