New Restrictions on Abortion Clinics

Sep 12, 2011

Health officials in Virginia this week consider emergency regulations which could severely restrict abortion clinics in that state.  The regulations are in response to a bill signed into law by Governor McDonnell earlier this year.  It requires the state to draft emergency regulations to treat abortion clinics as hospitals.  If approved, the regulations would go into effect December 31st and would be in place until permanent regulations are enacted.  It’s an effort to make the clinics safer, says Chris Freund of the Family Foundation of Virginia.

“The regulations cover a lot of ground, including licensing, including inspections of the facilities, including record keeping, sanitation, a lot of areas for health and safety,” said Freund.

However, the regulations getting the most attention are architectural guidelines.  For instance, a clinic would be required to have 5 foot wide hallways.

“If you have an emergency situation and paramedics need to get a gurney into a facility to get to someone who, say is hemorrhaging or in cardiac arrest, then you want a hallway that’s wide enough for emergency personnel to get in there,” said Freund.

“No, I believe that they say they need it that wide for two gurneys to pass.  First of all, most patients do not go from room to room on a gurney.  Second of all, when we have had emergencies, we’ve simply certainly been able to have the patients transported on a stretcher without any difficulty,” said Jill Abbey, who runs the Richmond Women’s Medical Center.

The Center operates clinics in Richmond, Roanoke, Charlottesville, and Newport News.

“The cost of the procedures will go up to women because when you add costs that’s what has to happen,” said Abbey.

Abortion clinics in Virginia currently fall under the same regulations as doctor’s offices and aren’t inspected by the state health department.  But the department would be charged with inspecting the clinics and enforcing the new rules if the regulations are approved Thursday.  I’m Beverly Amsler reporting.