|Action||Regulations for Licensure of Abortion Facilities|
|Comment Period||Ends 3/29/2013|
Comments on Targeted Regulations on Abortion Providers (TRAP)
I urge the Virginia Board of Health to reject unnecessary architectural requirements for existing facilities and to protect the confidentiality and safety of women’s health centers, their patients, and staff in the final regulations.
For several decades, women’s health centers have provided safe and accessible reproductive health care, including cancer screening, family planning, and abortion. Under the guise of protecting health, however, these TRAP regulations single out women who seek health care at centers that provide abortions and the doctors who care for them. The regulations were promulgated in response to “emergency” legislation--though the nature of the emergency has never been substantiated, and other types of health care facilities are not covered by the regulations.
Abortion is one of the safest surgical procedures in this country, and it is legal. History has shown that making abortions difficult to obtain will not stop abortions, only safe abortions. Before Roe v. Wade improved access to safe abortions, many desperate women died from back alley or self-induced abortions. The TRAP regulations must assure that women retain access to centers that provide safe abortions and other essential reproductive health care.
The application of these arbitrary and medically unnecessary regulations, however, appears designed to increase the financial burden on women, their doctors, and health centers and decrease women’s access to essential reproductive health care. These regulations are not based on medicine and science. In contrast to all other types of health care facilities, existing women’s health centers are not “grandfathered in” and architectural requirements that have nothing to do with safety are being imposed on existing facilities with a demonstrated record of providing safe abortions.
Most troublesome of all is the failure of these regulations to protect patient confidentiality. Under these regulations, Department of Health inspectors would be authorized to view health records, remove records, and maintain lists of patients. Such actions undermine the doctor-patient relationship that is the bedrock of adequate medical practice and constitute a violation of the most basic privacy rights of patients. The absence of fundamental protections of confidentiality afforded patients and doctors undergoing every other legal medical procedure suggests an unwillingness to protect patients and doctors at the centers from becoming targets of extremist groups. These regulations would also compromise the safety of women's health centers and their patients and staff by allowing the Department of Health to obtain information on center policies and procedures without requirements to maintain its confidentiality.
Contrary to statements about protecting health, these arbitrary and medically unnecessary TRAP regulations would endanger the health, privacy, and safety of patients and staff and place health care centers–lawful health establishments conducting legal medical procedures–at risk of harassment and violence. Women must not be treated like lesser human beings; they deserve access to safe medical care and privacy. I urge the Board to reject these arbitrary and medically unnecessary architectural requirements and to protect the confidentiality and safety of patients, staff, and women’s health centers in the final regulations.