Late this afternoon the Virginia Board of Health adopted regulations for Virginia’s abortion centers. After over an hour of public comment this morning and nearly three hours of attempted amendments and debate by the Board itself this afternoon, the Board passed the regulations 12-1.
The regulations now go to the Attorney General, Secretary of Health and Human Resources, Department of Planning and Budget and Governor for final review. Once that is complete, the regulations are scheduled to go into effect January 1, 2012. The regulations will be effective for one year, with the Governor having the option to extend them an additional six months. The process of creating permanent regulations will begin when these emergency regulations go into effect.
The regulations include licensing and unannounced inspections of abortion centers. They also require standards regarding medical personnel like requiring that the doctor remain on premises until a woman is actually ready to be discharged, improved sanitary conditions, and emergency equipment for cardiac arrest, seizure, respiratory distress and other critical medical situations. Abortion centers would also have to be built, or improved within two years, to standards similar to ambulatory surgical facilities.
During the meeting, one member of the Board attempted nearly two dozen amendments to the regulations, many of which would have significantly weakened the proposal. Some minor technical amendments passed, but none of the significant changes were accepted, most not receiving a second to original motions for the amendments.
The public comment period was at times heated. Each person was given two minutes to make their point, and most held to that time. One opponent to the regulations, someone who regularly testifies against any and all pro-life legislation when the General Assembly is in session, refused to stop when her time was up, going to the point where the chairman of the Board even pounded his table with a gavel in an attempt to get her to follow the rules.
I testified about the lack of oversight that allowed Dr. Steven Brigham to own clinics in Virginia when he doesn’t have a license to practice medicine in Virginia and is under investigation in multiple states for putting women’s lives at risk. As I left the podium a woman in the audience stood and began shouting at me. Later, she shouted at a representative of the Attorney General’s office who was giving advice to the Board, and was threatened with being removed from the meeting. When the vote concluded, another individual who had testified against the regulations began cursing at the Board and had to be escorted from the room by law enforcement.
Pro-abortion advocates stuck to questioning the motives of those who support the regulations, at times questioning the integrity of the Board itself, and using their typical misleading arguments about abortion being safe. Some testified that clinics would no longer be able to offer other medical services if the regulations passed. I pointed out in my testimony that abortion industry can continue offering any other medical service they claim to do regardless of today’s vote, they just have to decide whether or not they will spend their profits on the health and safety standards now required to also do abortions.
During the proceedings, a representative of the Board said that they had received over 1100 emails concerning the regulations, 646 in favor. Thank you to all of you who took a few moments to email the Board in the past two weeks! Your voice was heard! Many of you also emailed members of the General Assembly during session when the legislation requiring the Board promulgate regulations passed. Thank you to everyone who has had a part in this significant pro-life victory – including the many members of the General Assembly who voted in favor of the bill, the Lt. Governor who cast the tie breaking vote in the Senate, the Governor and the Attorney General.
After over two decades of avoiding oversight, Virginia’s abortion centers now face the choice of either spending their profits on meeting standards or no longer doing abortions at their facilities. They have suggested that most of their clinics will close instead of meeting the standards passed today.