A group of abortion rights activists are urging Gov. Bob McDonnell to amend a bill requiring that abortion clinics face stricter regulations to include all physicians offices where outpatient procedures are performed.
In a letter delivered to McDonnell (R) on Tuesday and signed by 100 people, they write that McDonnell should ensure that the bill doesn’t single out abortion clinics for special treatment.
Supporters of the new law, approved by the General Assembly in February, have argued that the stricter regulations are not about restricting access to abortions but about ensuring the safety of women who are treated at the clinics.
Those who oppose the law counter that if the bill is not about abortion, it should also require new regulations for physician’s offices where other procedures are performed, such as spinal taps and colonoscopies.
“If you truly believe that current standards in Virginia are lax and that there is a health and safety concern relating to outpatient care, why is it that only abortion clinics must meet this new standard and not ALL outpatient facilities?” the activists write in the letter to McDonnell. “Virginia voters expect you to live up to your statement and ensure a fair and equal standard, not impose one set of biased regulations on abortion clinics, while other physicians’ facilities which perform outpatient surgeries such as plastic surgery, oral surgery, colonoscopies, corrective eye surgery would continue under the existing regulations.”
McDonnell has until March 29 to sign, veto or amend the bill. He has indicated that he plans to approve the bill, and told reporters on the final day of the legislative session that he did not plan to offer any amendments to expand its scope.
The Virginia Board of Health has begun the process of formulating the new rules, which, according to the bill, must be approved within 280 days of the law’s enactment, a timeframe that triggers the state’s process for emergency regulations. Department of Health staff will write draft regulations and distribute them to the board in time for it to act on Sept. 15.
Health department staff have said the draft will become available to the public when it is distributed to board members, probably around Sept. 1. The public will have 20 minutes to offer comments on the draft, with each speaker limited to two minutes apiece.