I have reviewed the Virginia Regulations for Licensure of Abortion Facilities (the “Draft Permanent Regulations” or “Regulations”). I testified before the Board of Health on June 15, 2012 and again on September 14, 2012 regarding the Draft Regulations. I am submitting these brief written comments to expand on that prior testimony, which is incorporated by reference.
I am a board-certified obstetrician and gynecologist. I currently serve as the Chairman of the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Bon Secours St. Francis Hospital. I am the former Chairman of the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Bon Secours St. Mary’s Hospital. I also maintain a private practice in obstetrics and gynecology.
I received my medical degree in 1989 from the Medical College of Virginia in Richmond, Virginia. I then completed an internship and residency in obstetrics and gynecology at Eastern Virginia Graduate School of Medicine, in Norfolk, Virginia, from 1989 to 1993, serving as chief resident from 1992-1993.
Since completing my residency, I have worked in the private practice of obstetrics and gynecology. I currently practice with the Virginia Physicians for Women in Richmond, Virginia.
I am the immediate past Section Chair of the Virginia Section of the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), which is the nation's leading group of professionals providing health care for women. ACOG works primarily in four areas: serving as a strong advocate for quality health care for women; maintaining the highest standards of clinical practice and continuing education for its members; promoting patient education and stimulating patient understanding of and involvement in medical care; and increasing awareness among its members and the public of the changing issues facing women’s health care.
The Draft Permanent Regulations are not grounded in medical facts or sound medical practices. The Regulations require health care facilities that only perform first-trimester abortion procedures to unnecessarily overhaul their existing facilities and comply with the building and construction requirements applicable to new hospitals. Such onerous and expensive structural facility requirements are not rationally related to enhancing the safety of first-trimester abortion procedures, nor prevent potential patient complications. For example, requirements as to the width of hallways, HVAC systems, or numbers of parking spaces bear no logical connection to the health and welfare of patients undergoing first trimester abortion procedures, which are performed on an outpatient basis.
The lack of any logical connection between new hospital construction standards and patient health and safety is illustrated by the fact that other outpatient procedures that present risks similar to, or greater than, first trimester abortions, are regularly and safely performed in facilities other than hospitals, including private physician’s offices, clinics, and surgical centers. These procedures may include breast biopsies, certain plastic surgical procedures, and fibroid removal.
As a physician, I support all reasonable efforts to minimize health risks to patients and potential complications from medical treatment. With respect to first trimester abortions, such risks can be appropriately addressed through use of proper sterile technique; proper training of personnel, including physicians, nurses, and technicians; proper patient consultation and follow-up; and appropriate storage of supplies and disposal of waste. A hospital grade facility is not required, and I am not aware of any credible medical opinion holding that it is.
I appreciate the Board’s consideration of my comments.