The Virginia Catholic Conference, the public policy arm of the state’s Catholic dioceses, announced Wednesday that it supports new “very sensible” and “common-sense” regulations for Virginia abortion clinics.
The 26-page draft, released Friday, includes specific physical requirements for facilities, allows inspectors to make unannounced visits and mandates that hospitals provide emergency care.
“These items and so many others contained in the proposal deserve strong support from those who consider themselves pro-life and those who consider themselves pro-choice,’’ according to the group. “Indeed, it is hard to imagine why groups that say they are concerned about women's health would oppose these standards.’’
Abortion-rights organizations oppose the regulations, saying they are an attempt to shut down many of the 22 Virginia clinics that perform abortions. The new requirements are based on dozens of pages of guidelines for health-care facilities published by the Facility Guidelines Institute, a nonprofit group. They specify size of exam rooms (minimum “clear floor area of 80 feet”), public corridors that are a minimum width of 5 feet, and minimum ceiling heights of 7 feet 10 inches.
The group says the regulations would require clinics to be licensed; subject to state inspections; have life-saving equipment on hand; have written policies regarding infection prevention, fire safety, and the use of ultrasounds; and required to report patient deaths resulting from abortion procedures.
“Abortion is not health care because it ends lives rather than healing them,’’ according to the group. “The existence of the abortion industry under the guise of ‘health care’ is, however, a sad and tragic reality in our commonwealth and our country. Given this reality, the abortion industry should, and indeed must, be required to meet reasonable, commonsense health and safety standards to protect women’s health.”
The 15-member Board of Health, a majority of whom were appointed by Gov. Robert F. McDonnell (R), is scheduled to vote on the rules Sept. 15. McDonnell must sign off on the regulations before they go into effect Dec. 31. He said Tuesday that he has not read the draft regulations for abortion clinics, but that the intent of the proposal is to look after women’s health, not to close the facilities.