Virginia Attempting Kansas-Style Clinic Shutdowns

If you recall, Kansas enacted new regulations on abortion-providing clinics in an attempt to shut them down. The legislation worked, at least temporarily, was immediately challenged and an injunction granted.

The state of Virginia has decided it will take a shot at succeeding where Kansas did not. These are not routine regulations: they are emergency regulations. Perhaps I missed it--are women dying from abortion clinics not having large enough storage closets in Virgina? Is that why emergency regulations have been drafted? No, no. It's because they have to be written up due to passage--thanks to the Governor's tie-breaking vote--of Senate Bill 924.
Anti-abortion advocates at the time hailed it as a victory for women's health, while abortion-rights advocates said the law — which compels the board to regulate the clinics like hospitals — is really a move to close the clinics, considering it would compel them to undergo retrofitting of their facilities that most could not afford.

Currently the clinics, which handle only first-trimester abortions, are subject to the same regulations as physician practices that perform any number of invasive procedures, such as cataract surgery; colonoscopies; ear, nose and throat procedures; spinal taps; and dental and plastic surgery.

Abortion-rights advocates say the new regulations would threaten the closure of 15 or more of the clinics because of the costs involved in retro-fitting their facilities to meet the new requirements.

The state also has more than 40 independent obstetrics and gynecology clinics that would be subject to the regulations if they perform five or more abortions a month.


The 15-member Board of Health has an 8-6 majority of appointees of Gov. Bob McDonnell, an anti-abortion Republican. The remaining six members were appointed by then-Gov. Timothy M. Kaine, a Democrat who did not push for regulating abortion clinics like hospitals. One seat is vacant.


If a majority of the board approves the regulations, the regulations will be subject to "executive review" by the attorney general, the secretary of Health and Human Services, the Department of Planning and Budget, and the governor. Board members also have the option of approving the regulations conditioned upon making certain changes.


The standard process for implementing health regulations can take two years or more. There is an extended public comment period, and provisions in the process can delay implementation of regulations if substantial objections are raised.

But Hilbert said the accelerated timetable for the abortion clinic regulations is being mandated by language in the legislation, which requires the board to produce regulations within 280 days.

As a result, the board must treat the clinic regulations as "emergency regulations" that are not subject to the same process or public comment period.
There you go, that's why it's an "emergency": so it can be pushed through as soon as possible with as little public input as possible.

Virginians! There WILL be a public comment period. For three weeks up until the September 15th vote, the public can review the regulations (btw, according to the Public Participation Policy (.pdf) on their site, announcements are put in the Virginia Register regarding public comment periods). Once it's been passed and then onto "executive review", there's no more public commenting allowed.
The Board schedules a public comment period at the beginning of each regular meeting to provide an opportunity for citizens to address the Board. Anyone wishing to speak to the Board during this time should, at the beginning of the Board meeting, indicate his or her desire on the sign-in sheet. Presentations during the Public Forum shall not exceed two minutes per person. The public comment period shall be no more than twenty minutes.
According to their site, the September 15th meeting will begin at 9 am and will be held in Richmond (directions on their site). I strongly encourage you, if you can, to be involved with the comment process. Even if a person cannot make it to the meeting, the Board members are compelled to record any commentary they recieve outside of meetings:
...If the subject of a verbal or written comment received by a Board member pertains to specific proposed regulatory action that will be subject to Board approval, the member should immediately forward it to the Commissioner for inclusion in the agency record with other public comment in accordance with the Administrative Process Act. If the comment is a verbal communication, the Board member should immediately report the substance of the comment to the Commissioner who will place a summary of it in the agency record.
So there is still a way to make your voice heard (addresses).

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