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Thousands of Virginians have taken action to urge regulators to rely on evidence-based medicine, preserve access to safe and legal abortion.
Women's health advocates delivered over 17,324 petitions and comments to the Virginia Board of Health Thursday, opposing proposed regulations that could shut down women's health centers and endanger access to safe and legal abortion in the Commonwealth. Virginians from across the state have took action to express outrage over new, burdensome regulations that prioritize ideological agendas over evidence-based medicine. In July, the Board voted to amend the proposed regulations, the most repressive in the nation, to "grandfather in" existing clinics from draconian building regulations unrelated to patient safety. That amendment would allow clinics to remain open and continue to provide thousands of Virginia women life-saving cancer screenings, STD testing, family planning services, and safe, legal first trimester abortions. Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli is misrepresenting the law and misguiding the Board of Health in an attempt to bully them into shutting down clinics against their will. By threatening to refuse to "certify" the Board's authority, the Attorney General has forced the Board to reconsider legally sound and medically correct regulations in order to advance a political agenda.

"Political agendas have no place in the doctor's office or governing decisions that should rely solely on evidence-based medicine," said ProgressVA Executive Director Anna Scholl. "The Board's mission statement declares they are the 'primary advocate and representative of the citizens of the Commonwealth', not agents of politicians' political agendas. Virginians have made their voices clear: base the regulations on evidence-based medicine. We hope the Board chooses to represent the will of the public and votes to uphold the grandfather amendment."

(More below)

"Virginians are tired of politicizing women's health. That's why so many citizens are demanding that Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli stop playing with women's health and lives," said Tarina Keene, chairwoman of the Coalition to Protect Women's Health. "The Attorney General is attempting to intimidate the Board of Health into changing its vote to grandfather in existing abortion providers from burdensome construction requirements that are clearly intended to close their doors. The Board of Health is comprised of expert medical professionals and citizens who did not take their appointments to fulfill a political agenda. We can all agree with the Board's mission and we urge them to uphold it - ensure women's health, safety and access to care. We hope they will not succumb to the AG's bullying."

Background:

FACT: The Attorney General's office does not have "veto power" over the Board of Health's decisions.

  • Virginia law does not give the Attorney General's office veto power over the Board's policy decisions about what to include in the final rules. By threatening to refuse to "certify" the Board's authority, the Attorney General has claimed veto power over the Board's policy decisions.
  • As an elected official without medical expertise, a Virginia Attorney General and his/her office does not have the legal authority to decide upon the specifics of public health and medical regulations.
  • In this scenario, the Attorney General only has the responsibility to "certify" on the public record whether the Board has the authority to adopt rules under consideration.

FACT: Abortion is already regulated in Virginia by the Virginia Board of Medicine.
  • All Virginia doctors who provide abortion in Virginia are regulated by the Virginia Board of Medicine (see "Laws Governing Medicine"). Virginia doctors who provide abortion must meet the same medical standards as similar outpatient procedures performed in the state, including some dental procedures, colonoscopies, laser eye surgeries and some cosmetic procedures.

FACT: Abortion is considered one of the safest outpatient medical procedures in the U.S.
  • Nationally, abortion is one of the safest outpatient medical procedures performed in the U.S. today. "Fewer than 0.3% patients experience a complication that requires hospitalization" (Guttmacher Institute Fact Sheet, 2011).

FACT: A panel of Virginia doctors was asked to participate in drafting the proposed regulations. Several of these physicians, including Dr. James Ferguson (chair of the OB/GYN Dept. at UVa's School of Medicine) have since publicly denounced the regulations as not medically appropriate.

FACT: The 2010 Guidelines for Design and Construction of Health Care Facilities manual only applies to new facilities, not existing ones.

  • At the heart of the proposed regulations of first-trimester abortion in Virginia is the 2010 Guidelines for Design and Construction of Health Care Facilities. This manual provides guidance fornew hospitals to meet particular building requirements, such as size of hallways and particular ventilation systems. This manual does not apply to existing health care facilities.
  • The McDonnell administration's draft permanent regulations of women's health care centers in Virginia that provide first-trimester abortion attempted to apply these guidelines to existing women's health care centers, not just new ones. The Board of Health, under Virginia law, has never applied the guidelines in this way - in each and every past instance, the Board has applied the guidelinesonly to new buildings.
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ProgressVA is a multi-issue progressive advocacy organization that seeks to engage citizens from across the Commonwealth around issues of immediate state and local concern.www.ProgressVA.org

The Virginia Coalition to Protect Women's Health formed in 2011 as a response to the attack on women's health and safety prompted by Senate Bill 924. The Virginia Coalition to Protect Women's Health strives to protect and ensure access for all women in all regions of Virginia to safe first-trimester abortion and comprehensive reproductive health care services. The Coalition is committed to ensuring any regulations are based solely on medical and public health considerations. The Coalition is opposed to excessive, burdensome or unneeded regulations that undermine patient access to medical care for political or ideological purposes.

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