|Action||Regulations for Licensure of Abortion Facilities|
|Comment Period||Ends 3/29/2013|
My name is James H. Edmondson. I am a consumer representative on the Virginia Board of Health and a resident of Fairfax County. Unfortunately, I have been involved in the establishment of the regulations under consideration today since the law requiring them was signed in 2011. It has been a sad affair. The purpose of the law was not to regulate the clinics, but rather to shut them down.
It is perfectly appropriate that the Commonwealth should regulate the clinics that provide abortions. Invasive abortions are medical procedures. We regulate surgery centers that perform somewhat analogous invasive procedures. The state has an interest in such matters as cleanliness, emergency arrangements, record-keeping, and the qualifications of staff.
But the point of the law and the regs as drafted and approved is not hygiene and administration. It is requiring the facilities – the physical structures – to meet standards that have nothing to do with the safety of patients. Indeed, the law and regs do not differentiate medical and invasive abortions. Yet the regs demand that clinics providing abortions of any type meet building standards that are for new facilities that must deal with much more complicated procedures. All the clinics in Virginia subject to these regs have been operating for many years very safely. In fact abortions have fewer problems than births. Yet the state has decided to impose requirements on the physical plans of the clinics' buildings that are wholly unreasonable. (Two of us on the board demonstrated to our colleagues the inappropriateness of adhering to the guidelines relating to outpatient hospitals, but after some resistance the board capitulated to the Attorney General in approving the regs largely as drafted.)
It appears that some of the clinics may be able to finance the changes to their facilities required by the law and regs. I hope so, for the benefit of the many poor and uninsured women of the Commonwealth who rely on the clinics for care other than abortions. Others will remain open only if the Department interprets the regs in a manner suggested last week by former Commissioner of Health Karen Remley. Dr. Remley wisely observed that the Department may exercise some discretion in its inspection of clinics, giving them latitude to waive specific requirements, such as hallway width, if patient safety is not jeopardized. It is the same way that the Department and staff deal with inspections of other facilities that it regulates. The object is not to close down restaurants or water treatment plants. The object is to keep Virginia citizens safe. And the truth is that the clinics as is have done that.
I urge the new Commissioner and the Office you supervise, Eric, to exercise reasonableness in your use of the regs of these clinics. Let’s keep Virginians safe by giving them access to legal care.